Issue 12: Our Bespoke Future

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Welcome to Backstory, a weekly newsletter turning global technology shifts into a three-minute read. This week we’re taking a look at our digital hygiene. If we listen to young people, we can harness the power of data collection for better living – Mary Ames, Director of Strategy


Our Bespoke Future


Given the pace of innovation, it’s difficult to take stock of the grandeur of our moment. We can expect bespoke experiences for just about anything. Our constant online interactions are translated into exquisitely tailored customer experiences. While we are aware of the dangers of data privacy, the fact is that data collection allows us to discover products and delight in experiences that seem to have been effortlessly crafted “just for me”.

The kids are alright: It’s easy to bemoan youth culture as hopelessly ensconced in the warm glow of smartphones. But we don’t give young people enough credit for their own savviness when it comes to digital hygiene. Many young people know enough about data privacy that they can protect themselves online while ensuring they enjoy the best bespoke online experience the internet can offer. That’s not to say there can’t be an improvement but we may stand to learn something from the youth in this department.

The trade off: We are willing to hand over our data in exchange for tailored products and a myriad of free services. Google, Facebook, and other social media platforms serve us ads based on our online habits. For better or worse, this structure is not going to change anytime soon. Let’s embrace our bespoke reality and keep an eye on the youth for pointers on how to maximize it.


“There was a time when people felt the internet was another world, but now people realise it's a tool that we use in this world.”

Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web.



Rethinking citizenship: Could digital citizenship unlock a new knowledge economy? Last month, we travelled to Estonia to take the temperature of its innovative e-residency programme. The small Baltic nation launched the world’s first e-Residency programme in 2014 with the goal of 10 million e-residents by 2025. The trend is clear: we have a lot to learn from the Estonians.

The next hotspot: To keep growing its booming technology sector, the UAE should look beyond its own borders. This week, we explain why Africa is one of the best places to start. As one of the most populated continents with a rapidly growing youth sector, Africa holds enormous potential for future knowledge economies. With capital to invest and knowledge expertise to export, the UAE can be at the forefront of African tech.



In real life: In a first, the US state of New Hampshire unveiled a highway marker honoring computer programming. The plaque honours BASIC, the Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code, which was invented at Dartmouth College in 1964. Public plaque and commemorations have long played an important role in our collective memory. How exciting that we can now honour the computer age in the physical environment.

The saga continues: The United States opened a slew of antitrust investigations this month against Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon. But can old laws answer today’s challenges? We have spotted this all over the map, so we decided to gather up the latest news and investigate it for ourselves.


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