Issue 7: Less Disruption, More Innovation

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Welcome to Backstory, a weekly newsletter turning global technology shifts into a three-minute read. This week we are thinking about how early internet pioneers might solve problems facing today’s internet. Hint, it’s not about disruption – Mary Ames, Director of Strategy


Less Disruption, More Innovation


It’s developer summit season in Silicon Valley. From Facebook's F8 conference to Microsoft Build, internet titans come together this time of year to reveal changes, tweaks, and new directions on their platforms. The internet is far from healthy this season. Data privacy scandals, pending regulations, and bungled product launches are just a few of the recent ills plaguing the most innovative space on the planet.

Where did the innovation go? It might seem as though regulation is the only solution for the challenges. While we fully support smart regulation, we can’t help but wonder: where has the innovation gone? Take data privacy. That’s a ripe challenge for a young startup to face head-on and solve. Why not use a blockchain?  

Return to the roots: The early internet was about disruption. Its ethos was innovation. No problem was too big or small. Now that the early pioneers have matured (along with their creations), it’s time to get some of that spirit back. Regulations can help set boundaries  but we need innovation to genuinely fix the internet’s problems. The beautiful part is that innovation is not just about technology; it’s about ideas. Let’s get thinking.


“One of the main characteristics that differentiates Dubai from other commercial centres is its openness to innovation."

Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, CEO of Mashreq Bank.


No more teachers, no more books? For years, Silicon Valley has been pushing into classrooms around the world. Their promise is better learning, faster communication, and smarter students. But now there’s pushback in the United States and it’s starting a fresh conversation about the role of educational technology. The digital classroom is not a given. Educators need to find the right balance between emotional, intellectual, and technological education. We investigate the status of the classroom of the future.  

Here come the regulators: With all this innovation talk, we wanted to highlight a piece on regulation from our archives. Facebook and Google dominate more than half of the world’s internet advertising market. This remarkable feat gives them extraordinary power over how we experience the internet. It has also raised some eyebrows among lawmakers. We jumped into the regulation debate to explore the role of small states in the coming digital reckoning.


Peak phone: How many cellphones have you had in your life? Probably a lot. Maybe more than you remember. Well, all those phones have led to a fascinating data point. Cell phones now outnumber human beings. While this highlights the mammoth role of technology in our lives, it should also be a warning. After all, it’s not like phones are biodegradable.

Data and money: We haven’t hid our bullish take on the payments space. With more people than ever using smartphones, digital payments services are one of the most promising sectors in the technology economy. It seems like Facebook agrees. The social media giant is set to launch its own cryptocurrency-based payments system soon. Are we ready to entrust our money to Facebook?


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