Business / View

Population a challenge, opportunity

By Ben Verwaayen (China Daily) Updated: 2012-09-12 08:00

We now have a population of more than 7 billion on a resource-constrained planet. Rather than seeing this number as a problem, I think it is a tremendous opportunity for new ideas, particularly among today's youth.

Imagine, 7 billion people with billions of ideas about innovation. And the most meaningful innovation is that which improves human lives. So, how does one go about it?

First of all, innovation has to be about a smarter way of doing things. Perhaps assembling existing technologies into easy-to-use applications is a meaningful way for citizens to improve their communities.

For example, with today's digital revolution being embraced by millions around the world, incredible new applications are being created instantly.

What I find most fascinating is that the youth are the ones who grasp the opportunities for innovation the most. Just look at the rise of social media in China, which is being driven by young people.

The concept of a green lifestyle is another example. For today's youth, being green is not an option. They are raising the bar and not waiting for anyone to invite them to do it.

I think trends toward green living provide the single biggest innovation opportunity of this century. There are many ways of pursuing this philosophy. The Greentouch initiative by Alcatel-Lucent is one model that works across public and private research to increase network - or Internet - energy efficiency by a factor of 1,000 by 2015.

Population a challenge, opportunity
Innovation in this case is about going beyond a company and reaching out to new stakeholders, public and private, and across countries to achieve a common target quickly.

With the increasing use of digital devices by people around the world, we in the telecommunications industry have realized that we absolutely must be green to grow.

Another innovation model is so-called co-creation. It is about bringing customers and different members of an ecosystem together as partners at the forefront of the innovation process and creating revolutionary life-changing technologies.

I am very optimistic. Each time I come to China, I am incredibly impressed by the innovation happening throughout this society. I believe China has understood the importance of green technology for growth as a long-term strategy.

The challenge presented by the world's population is therefore an opportunity for communities around the world. Innovation will play a massive role. But it will not happen without audacious goals.

We need to cross countries and boundaries to create common agendas and a better understanding of the opportunity. We need to place it in the front row of decisions. And with 7 billion of us around the globe today, and billions of ideas, what an incredible opportunity for innovation! The goal is simple: put innovation at the forefront to improve human lives.

The writer is the CEO of Alcatel-Lucent and a member of the World Economic Forum's Foundation Board.

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