Issue 21: The Bank in Your Pocket

 
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Welcome to Backstory, a weekly newsletter turning global technology shifts into a three-minute read. With the release of the Apple Card, we’re thinking this week about technology, finance, and wellbeing. – Joseph Dana, Senior Editor


THE BIG TAKE

The Bank in Your Pocket

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Would you trust a technology company with your finances? Millions of people around the world already use smartphones and computers to organise their financial lives. But something is different now. The smartphone is fast becoming the bank. From Zanzibar to San Francisco, this quiet revolution has changed the relationship between technology, wellness, and money. It knows no borders.  

The Apple Card: While Apple products are better suited to wealthier markets, the recent introduction of the Apple Card is a bellwether. The card is designed to live entirely on your iPhone (although there is a fancy physical card on offer). Apple promises to give users new powers over their finances through a well-designed app but the real disruption is the destruction of fiat currency. The Apple Card will mark the death of the wallet. 

The end of cash? Fiat currency is expensive and insecure. People in emerging markets are familiar with the burden of volatile currency and the risk of cash being stolen. By moving money to smartphones, millions more can have bank accounts and enter the formal economy (even Jennifer Lopez is investing in the sector). The only prerequisite is having a smartphone (and those are getting cheaper). 


QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“The changing nature of money is only one facet of the financial services revolution."

Scott Cook, American businessman


OUR VIEWS THIS WEEK

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Is wellness the new GDP? Economists love growth and GDP measures growth. That explains why the somewhat archaic measurement is so popular. But what counts as growth anyway? We investigate whether wellness and happiness should be the new benchmarks for growth in the international economy.

The future is urban: Africa is home to the world’s smallest number of internet users thanks to poor infrastructure and the rural nature of many communities. The problem facing Africa, the thinking goes, is fundamentally a rural one. While this might be true for the time being, Africa’s challenges are on the verge of becoming decidedly urban. We explore Africa’s urban future in detail this week.


SPOTTED ELSEWHERE

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Expressway for bicycles: We love self-driving cars and the promise of roads full of autonomous vehicles but the simple bicycle still holds a special place in our hearts. The Dutch have a similar love affair with bicycles and they recently took their affection to a new level. The Guardian reported that the city of Utrecht has just created the world’s largest multi-storey parking area for bicycles. In a country where bikes outnumber people, we can always look to the Netherlands for two-wheeled inspiration.

A world without internet: Imagine if you woke up tomorrow and there was no internet. What would your day look like? The journalists at Gizmodo put the question to some of the world’s leading technology thinkers, and what they had to say was surprising. A world without the internet might not be all that bad, at least in the short term.


 

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