Suddenly they see the world ! At the moment about 4 billion people on earth have a smartphone with an internet connection. About 3 billion of them are active on social media. What does this mean? All these 4 billion people can see how the others in the world live and work. How they live, what they think, how they make money. The poor among the 4 billion people with smartphones, most of them, did not have a newspaper before, nor some other communication with the big outside world. On average, their living and thinking world did not get much further than the village where they live or a communal TV. Suddenly they see on their smartphone a world that they have heard of, but have never seen with their own eyes. Suddenly information on almost all subjects is available for free and daily news in the world can be followed. Suddenly they see what they are missing, how life is also possible, how much better it is elsewhere. And important: they can easily contact fellow countrymen who live in rich countries. What is going through them? What are they going to do ?
What are they going to do ? What would you do ? That is a bit known. In 2020, 272 million people were “migrants” (UN World Migration Report 2020). That is 3-4% of humanity. Almost doubling from 2000: 150 million. Three quarters of these are people with an average age of around thirty to forty: in short, potential workers from the countries of origin. Almost all migrants have a smartphone with an internet connection. This way they are inspired to start their journey. The smartphone is their life line with the new digital world and with the home front. The smartphone gives them information where to go and how to get there. Many take the gamble in coordination with their family. The aim is to end up in one of the rich countries, find work there, and then provide the home front with money.
Everyone connected ? The growth per country of the number of smartphones with an internet connection varies from approximately two percent (in developed countries where many people already have internet) to approximately fifteen percent in Asia and Africa. This means that in less developed countries, hundreds of millions of connections are added every year; one to two million a day. In the coming years, the poorest part of the world population will therefore also get a smartphone with an internet connection. We can assume that in ten years’ time all people who can speak will have a smartphone with an internet connection. The world is then 100% interconnected, from person to person, regardless of location.
Migration increases. And what will the poorest people on earth do if they, like many others, can see where there is welfare and wealth? The poorest who are worse off than the 272 million people who are currently migrating. What if they know that there is no perspective in their country? Because of war, drought, floods, lack of education or health care. The chances are that the flows of migrants will increase considerably in the coming years. And that will certainly not get better if the rich countries get richer after the corona pandemic, while they fail to help the poorer countries.
Fatal divergence ? Now more than ¼ billion people are adrift. That could become as much as 1 billion in the coming decades. With all its consequences in countless places in the world where countries will try to close borders. There comes a fatal divergence in the world between rich countries that are increasingly draconian protecting themselves against migratory flows and poor countries, who are faced with the disappearance of their only chance of perspective: the young generation. This must not happen, but it could if no action is taken.
All connected. It is therefore vital that Western countries realise that we have entered a digital society in which everyone and everything is connected everywhere. Just as the poorer people get with their smartphones a glimpse of how the rich on earth live, so the rich countries on earth can reach the poor on earth. After all, all those people with their smartphone and internet connection are digitally accessible.
Young people go to cities. The Western world would do well to wake up quickly from its introverted attitude and not passively wait for more people to migrate. While in a world with little communication it is possible that separate regions survive alone, in a world where everyone is connected to everyone, that is becoming increasingly difficult. Just as in richer countries the countryside is emptying in favour of ever-expanding cities, so in the world the poorer countries will become even poorer, if the young people to obtain a better perspective will leave those countries.
Knowledge is key. It is vital both for rich and poor countries to reduce these migrations. Potential migrants must therefore be given a digital perspective, with knowledge, projects and money, to learn to build a reasonable life at the home location. Because they don’t leave for their pleasure, but because of bitter necessity. It is the responsibility of governments of rich countries to provide all citizens of the world with basic information on many matters: health, education, accounting and finance, language skills, knowledge about agriculture and many other things. With behind that projects, programs, money, to convert the digitally acquired knowledge into activities to build an existence.
Develop international communication. If we are able to digitally provide people in poor countries with the information they need to help themselves more, grow food, get education and many other things like that, then that is the best and perhaps only option to discourage potential migrants to start journeying. However, the digital connections also offer opportunities, based on the right information and conditions, to temporarily attract migrants for certain activities in rich countries. But then with mutually agreed conditions and clear information about the expectations. This can help prevent people without perspective from ending up in camps in border areas for years. Perhaps certain migrants can work as seasonal workers in rich countries for several months. Perhaps, with proven knowledge, some migrants can get internships, after which they can start a business in the country of origin. Maybe digital contracts can be concluded for activities, with young people in many countries. And of course all this will have to be done in agreement between the governments of the countries involved. In short: much more communication needs to be established with the millions of migrants, to inform them, to transfer knowledge, to try to give perspective through digital means.
One Liquid Society. One thing is certain. In the hyperconnected world, the world is becoming a digital unity. The Tech Giants technically connect everyone to everyone and everything. Everyone has insight into how the world functions elsewhere. Social media adds the human component to this. The dependencies and influences on each other will increase further in the coming years. Step by step, this liquid society will increasingly function as one world. Resistance to this is pointless, counterproductive and unwise. Governments must accept this development, look beyond “own people first” and realise that global digital connectivity will also lead to new forms of digital human connections and interactions. And that digital connections offers new perspectives for both countries and people, which require new forms of management and governance. Ultimately for the benefit of everyone.