A Speech by David Hayden
World Bank Government Borrower's Forum
April 20, 2000, in Italy
Let me begin by saying what a privilege it is to be here. You are such an influential group … you are the thought leaders and ministers of trade and finance … to a great extent, you affect the movement of capital and currencies world-wide … no less than this, you have great influence over of the future of the world’s finances, and indeed, of the world itself.
Speaking to you about the Internet, a subject dear to my heart, is both an honor, and something I greatly enjoy.
The change in commerce that is happening largely as a result of what is happening on the Internet is the subject of my talk this morning.
As an entrepreneur with my own particular background and expertise in finance, I hope to illustrate the value of a different perspective on commerce as it pertains to the Internet and what many are calling the “e-commerce revolution”.
As an entrepreneur, I have participated directly in the commercial unfolding of the Internet over the past eight years. Accordingly, I have had the luxury of looking ahead to see what this new phenomena holds for us and I have started companies that have had an impact on the phenomenon itself.
Entrepreneurs are known somewhat kindly as the pioneers of industry and change … kindly, because we are known as a stubborn, often difficult group of people who have the audacity to try not just to predict the future, but to create it (at least, that is my wife’s definition).
I am speaking to you today from a dual perspective –– one of predicting the future, and one of creating it through action. From these perspectives, I have some ideas to share with you, within the time you have graciously given me.
First, the obvious: The internet's growth is inexorable. The Internet will cause fundamental change to government, societies, and economies. It will create an ever smaller world wherein character will count … just as in a smaller social circumstance, where it is hard for the bad apples to hide, people are, and will be, more inclined to try and get along.
To all this … the Internet bears economic implications for all of us that are at least as dramatic as the political impact of the end of the Cold War. While many will broadly predict change, I want to bring the implications of change as close to our shared personal reality as I possibly can. I want to leave you with the sense that not only does the Internet bring change, but how.
Second, I want to offer a vision of the future that we can actually create … that is real … One that each of us can help bring about if we decide to. By that, I mean that I want to clearly convey that the future that I think lies before us is not a future of uncertainty, nor a future of finite supply and demand, and most important, not a future where we are powerless. I want to offer a vision of the future that is not only real, but one in which we are empowered to make it so. Most important, the future is not a choice between alternatives we know, but rather an unknown that we create together.
And third, I want to suggest that there are clear actions we must take, that will alter the course of current events, and that will lead to creating the sustainable economic culture we are all working to create.
Those ideas may sound rather lofty … in fact they often sound lofty to me… I have said there will be dramatic change because of the Internet, that we need to understand this change, and that we need to do something about it.
And some of you might now be wondering how I came to be here … and what gives me that right to even suggest that we face a world of change such as we have never before experienced, and that we are not yet fully prepared [to embrace and work with the change that is upon us].
Well, I come to you by way of Silicon Valley, which has been to the transformation taking place today, courtesy of the Internet, what Florence was to the Renaissance of the 15th and 16th centuries. I actually come by way of a conversation I had with one of your colleagues, not more than four months ago. During that conversation I explained how the center of power driving the Internet … what has been Silicon Valley these past eight years … is rapidly shifting, and shifting to a fully global awareness. I began by explaining to her my own perspective of the Internet and my history with it … and we ended up talking about the global implications of decentralized technology, decentralized finance, decentralized politics, and decentralized power –– the kinds of changes only brought about by the immediate and transparent layer of communication and commerce which the Internet enables. We didn’t finish that conversation –– literally, we ran out of time. So with you in mind, and what I believe is your genuine desire to better understand the Internet and the change it will bring, we will continue that conversation.
Let me first begin with a brief overview of my history … I began working with the Internet when I co-founded one of the world’s first search engine/ portals. We named it Magellan after the Portuguese navigator, the first man to circumnavigate the globe –– or almost. Like Magellan, the navigator, and many Internet pioneers, I had not always been in technology. Icons of the Internet like Jeff Bezos of Amazon, or Chris Cotsakos of E*Trade, are relevant to this point –– The point being, perspective and courage and vision are more important that technical background.
After creating Magellan the search portal, and selling it to a company that for lack of a better option, was called “Excite”, I founded the first email outsourcing service, Critical Path, a true global communication infrastructure company. At the time of the founding … early 1997 … fewer than 150 million email addresses existed worldwide. I could clearly see that with over 5 billion potential addresses, there would be a need for an extraordinarily capable infrastructure which could be shared by the thousands of Internet service providers to serve all users –– like any post office, but we are electronic and global, delivering the mail anywhere in the world, all the time.
And, this has proved to be a correct, even the visionary model –– for the distribution of email is the standard electronic communicating tool.
With the invention of the World Wide Web and the browser, we began to glimpse a world of instantaneous and often interactive contact with a world of information so vast it is still overwhelming. Incredibly however, we are talking about a span of time that is less than ten years. In ten years we have permanently altered global communication, the Dow has gone from 3000 to 10,000, FTSE from 2500 to 6900, GDP of the US has increased from $5,803 billion to $9,507 billion, but the GDP of the Third world has changed [increased] only 3.3 percent.
Many visionaries saw the Internet as a manifestation of what they always knew… that we are all ‘connected’ … And these visionaries immediately wanted to create an information revolution that would touch everyone … that would make it possible to have what they would call a “global community” … that the Internet would have the same impact on our social structure as it would have on our economic structure … that there would be a tool for a common and universal language, and there would be a discovery of shared values ... a global availability of education, health care and other basic human needs.
Essentially, and to belabor this point, we were hearing the 1990s version, or re-iteration of a 1960s esoteric physical law that stated that a butterfly could flap its wings in the Amazon and change the weather in Chicago three weeks later … at the time, the ultimate demonstration of interconnectedness. Now, however, we all know that a bond trader can raise her hand in New York, and create instant margin calls or wealth for someone she doesn’t even know in Singapore within a fraction of a second … this is the power of the electronic web.
Have we vastly over-estimated the barriers to our dreams?
The Internet has hardly yet created a global community, despite its promise … yet the promise remains phenomenal. We don’t have to look far for examples here. Fewer than 20% of the world’s population is connected to the Internet, and a far smaller percentage is touched by the economic wealth being generated. There is both an enormous disparity in wealth and access being created by the Internet, as well as an even greater need to spread and disperse this wealth and connectedness to the socially sustainable benefit of everyone. In fact, it would seem the need to put the Internet into the hands of those who are not touched by it is directly proportional to the profiteers’ need to develop it ….and watch out that we frequently ignore the real value in the diversity of the human family in this process. Digital signals across an electronic network cannot replace the human spirit. Nor can they replace the rich ness of culture that has developed over the millennia. Nor, should [they].
Many will tell you that the Internet heralds an unprecedented evolution in the transformation of all business and communication. We hear a lot about the Internet creating a “paradigm shift” or a “quantum leap” from where we are today, to where we’re supposedly going tomorrow. Those closer to the Internet experience a little of the frenzy and acceleration of excitement, of ideas, of technology, and even of wealth and turmoil, but perhaps without much real understanding of why it is happening … of what the Internet really means to our daily lives –– in a world where fewer than half the people on the planet have even made a long distance telephone call, does the Internet really change the world?
Indeed it does.
I have promised to talk about the implications of the Internet on you personally, on your respective governments, on our lives. I have promised to talk about the risks and rewards of the Internet, and I have promised to offer you a vision of the future that can be real. As an entrepreneur with some success behind me, but more as a world citizen with the unknown in front, I want to tell you that what is clear to me is that the Internet as a phenomenon is happening –– we can’t turn it back …. Governments might slow it down … they (the governments of the world) might temporarily halt it, they might tax it, but they won’t stop it from happening, and if we, the world’s citizens, don’t distribute this thing called the Internet, and everything that goes with it, from email communication to global, borderless commerce, then … we don’t have a sustainable environment … on any level.
Despite 1 billion people being connected, there are 5 billion who aren’t. The chasm between those that have wealth (and I’m not even talking about great wealth, the multi-million or billion dollar wealth) and the truly poor, is alarmingly large. When I was listening to Bill Joy, one of the founders of Sun Microsystems, talk about this problem, I could not help but be struck by the fact that there is an immense fear and concern growing around the gulf between wealth and poverty. So I’m saying, as I’m sharing this with you, the Internet provides us the opportunity (if we seize it) to raise the quality of life of everyone on earth. But how?
Just look at the current economic situation, the world in which you are engaged –– funding, lending to, borrowing from … organizations and governments that are not entrepreneurial, that don’t act or re-act quickly … big governments with inertia and hierarchies, instead of the ‘can do’, highly motivated, horizontal, cutting edge, exciting, life-changing kinds of organizations and ventures the Internet is fostering.
Our established traditional economic models, in truth, fall short in grasping the global trade environment, the borderless world economy, the connected, wireless world we are creating. For example, we have never before seen the public’s willingness to finance and grow (extraordinary and risk embracing growth in such short time-frames) such unproven companies like Amazon, Ebay, like Yahoo, Priceline, like CommerceOne –– while more traditional companies like BT, AT&T, Chevron, NTT are forced to change their operations or risk obsolescence.
The truth is, that to us in this room, whether a particular company makes a profit or not, repays a loan or not, is a major issue. Do we remember that the first automobile companies as they were changing the world didn’t make profits either … that only a few of them remain. At that time it took them about 70 years to change the world, and in fact, today, fewer than 20% of the people of the world own cars. What we need to see is that most people don’t have cars because of the constraints of the physical world … iron/manufacturing/tariffs … are all controlled by lines in the dirt, by the traditional boundaries of sovereignty.
The Internet doesn’t recognize traditional boundaries of countries, or necessarily, even the legal and economic laws of those countries. Today, from anywhere in the world, on the Internet I can buy goods directly from China or Latin America –– I can do this over the Internet and I can do this without paying a VAT or local tax. In many instances, the buying and selling I can do on the Internet is not recognized as a legal or sanctioned activity by the country of the person I am dealing directly with. But today, I can do that anyway.
We hear a great deal about decentralization … I say it a lot –– what decentralization means is quite simple. It’s about the restructuring of traditional financial and service infrastructure, from a centralized (source of funds or services), intermediated (which means a highly brokered and more expensive model) to one that allows the individual to buy [more] directly online, and at a lower cost or rate. For example, I don’t have to go to my local bank or mortgage broker for a home loan –– I can get that through the Internet at rates lower than I can at my bank ... in fact my bank is no longer a real place … on the Internet it’s an eBank, and has no physical branches (that’s a cost structure I don’t need to pay for … and don’t want to).
I’m doing this today, and I can do it in many places in the world, but if this is a beginning of this particular change, what happens to the infrastructure of banks, buildings, lines and modes of transportation, that we are used to and have created over the past century. And still, what happens to the people in the villages in India, Vietnam, Australia and even the US where there is barely even a telephone connection and barely an extension of the power grid?
If I can buy 99% of what I need online (or even 90%), as I can today, and I can have it delivered to my doorstep in good condition and in time (WebVan will guarantee the delivery of my perishable groceries within two hours of ordering, and there are hundreds of WebVan competitors cropping up in the US and Europe) … is this the beginning of the end of traditional patterns of shopping behavior? Will Ebay replace the bazaar in Marrakech or Piccadilly overnight?
Of course not. But, I don’t know that these places haven’t already changed dramatically, at least in some small scope, by the mere hint of what is happening around them on the Internet. The truth is, we have never, ever seen change in people’s habits or behaviors happen so fundamentally and so quickly. Five years ago, who knew what “dot com” meant. Now, in many countries, no company places an advertisement without its dot com address. Two years ago, China, the largest (in terms of people) nation on the planet, was 150th among all nations in the world registering dot com domain names. Today, just two years later, China is 11th. In one year from today, China will be #1.
The changes we are witness to and are experiencing all have a direct impact on the traditional laws of supply and demand, and the laws of diminishing returns. With the demand for production lead-times practically at zero on the Internet, and with any local market or manufacturer now at least capable of selling globally, demand is phenomenally increased. The impact on the means of supply is obvious. It means there is clearly an evolution in the global acceleration and spread of what began as information, and is now manifesting as the global network of on-line finance and trade.
So where are we? We find ourselves today with technology that will, and I repeat will … change the way we conduct commerce forever. Think “discovery” of the New World, by Europe, and mutltiply by a factor of 1000, a million, 10 million, who can say. Or imagine the Emperor of China at the beginning of the last Century, deciding to tear up all the railroads laid in the Western Countries, and ship as debris to Taiwan, because the Middle Kingdom was already pre-eminent.
Those in the Internet industry … as compared to those merely touched by it, and as compared to those still not affected by it at all … are directly experiencing new paradigms of thinking and managing business –– quite rapidly, the new technology driven power centers of Silicon Valley, Boston, Redmond, Austin, Shinzen, Delhi, are all catching the old financial power centers of London, Hong Kong, New York, Rome. The competitive dynamics of capitalism (the market economy writ large) now effective worldwide, are re-writing the scripts for global commerce, communication, finance, technology and politics. When I can vote for a political representative online, and in so doing, gather an additional 10-15% of the voting base because it’s easier that way, then I have fundamentally changed the political landscape. This is happening now, not tomorrow. The changes we are experiencing are happening simultaneously on local and global levels at speeds that were heretofore unfathomable. The global economy today is less than 70 trillion dollars. By 2004 it is estimated to be over 110 trillion, and of that, an estimated 8-10% will be online, where today it is less than 2%. That is rapid change.
Accordingly, I believe that all of us in this room share a large responsibility ….to not only understand the changing global landscape of trade, finance and the interplay of political governments, but also to act within the parameters of our understanding to forge the larger world of global commerce.
So where will this transformation take us? More importantly, how do we lead it? How do we achieve any of our dreams, be they dreams of peace, cultural diversity, world harmony, or global prosperity? I will tell you, the traditional, somewhat methodical approach to changing the way things are –– is not working –– legislatures, parliaments and military organizations are caught in the politics of self-preservation, while the Internet is empowering everyone it touches.
The Internet enables the woman sewing shirts for her landlord in the Golden Triangle to sell her product directly to the world market. It can totally alter the dynamics of personal power and markets. It can enable the end of disintermediation. And the Internet proves time and again that it doesn’t need to wait for anything. The people using it are learning this lesson of “immediacy”. The Internet is also showing us that, in fact, we can overcome the paradox of “not being able to get there from here”.
The Internet is a domain ... of thinking and acting ... it is particularly liked by entrepreneurs because we aren’t weighed down by our own legacies (entrepreneurs don’t like legacy) . We can get things done! And what we are seeing is the Internet is empowering many, many people to think like entrepreneurs, to the point where lots of things are getting done –– and there are many more entrepreneurs out there, than you would imagine.
But let me share a lesson from my own experience in creating an infrastructure for email traffic.
When I founded Critical Path I passionately believed in the need for a global messaging service infrastructure. Throughout the history of civilization, every culture, every society, every nation, has always bound its rule and authority with its citizens by a web of communication and commerce. My challenge was, from the perspective of those financing the Internet at that time (three years ago) virtually no one else believed in the idea, and no one thought I could create from scratch a world-wide communication service in the face of giants like AT&T and Microsoft. That was three years ago, and the fact was, we did.
In our time, that web is not physical roads or marketplaces, it is electronic, it is the Internet, it is the gateway to communication and commerce.
In the past, empires used information and commerce to bind their citizens, to reach out or pull back their borders. When the United States Congress blocks international trade agreements with China because of its concerns over China’s human rights policies, it’s a clear example of the leverage that can be waged by both sides around the basic economics of exchange.
Well, the Internet is about to change this political matter as well. As a borderless world, with unlimited economic power and capital market strength behind it, the Internet can instantaneously alter the flow of capital to serve the individual or the major corporation. Examples of this are easy to find. The online multibillion dollar spot markets between major oil companies, being created today, or a US Senator’s ability to raise $5 million in online contributions over four critical days of his campaign.
By enabling these egalitarian solutions, the Internet can also generate enormous problems for us as a world of law and governments. This is all about change … change at rapid rates and on a phenomenal scale. For instance, the US decision to table Internet taxation until 2006 … because it has no choice to do so … or Venezuela’s decision to ban free Internet access … Governments are having to deal with the power of the individual created by the power of the Internet in ways they are not prepared to cope with.
Information was the only missile needed to bring down the Berlin Wall … to pierce the Iron Curtain –– the Internet offers that same potential to all boundaries.
That cycle is happening right now in countries as diverse as the Sudan, Chiapas, Mexico and remote villages in South America. There is not even a need for a land-based infrastructure ... all that is needed is access to a satellite signal.
Another example, how MP3 technology has permitted teenagers from all over the world to download music for free … how a 19 year old created a company called Napster, a global MP3 search engine, and gave it away ... 1million users in 2 months ... and is changing, and will change, the record business overnight. The important questions are: How will we moderate this global commerce, this borderless trade? How will countries that need and want to, restrict or enable what the Internet naturally enables?
Our responsibility is to channel and lead this change. And perhaps equally important, and with greater social impact, how will we ensure, if we want to, and as I insist we do want to, the sustainable distribution of Internet commerce and wealth on a global scale, that does not undermine the cultural diversity we care about, or the political dynamics that we have to obey? Most if not all indicators today point to an enormous digital divide between those who have, and those who do not, with no clear solution in sight –– meaning, no recognized body or organization on a global scale is willing or capable of stepping up to the challenge of world trade leadership in a world that the Internet insists includes everyone.
We’ve asked the questions, or I should say, I’ve asked the questions, but let’s look at the future of this e-commerce network to see if we can find some answers.
For me, looking back over the past 7 or 8 years, it all seems rather conspired rather than inspired –– the Internet provides by its architecture for the massive decentralization of services, but provides no obvious place for the known and trusted third party service entities –– I think because the traditional entities, like the postal services, the local bookstores, the local governments, and even the world trade and banking organizations, all don’t really work the same way in a decentralized world –– and I think that in order to survive the e-commerce revolution, we are all going to have to understand how to organize ourselves quite differently.
My company, Critical Path became huge and dominant in a very short time, partly because a) it didn’t have any legacy, but more important because b) it was able to understand the reinvention of its relationship to existing services necessary in the new medium, and necessary to survive and grow. There was quite a resistance to the very idea that anyone would outsource their email operation to an independent, unknown company.
I think a similar resistance will be found in any attempt to re-invent or re-define global finance and global commerce –– the challenge of communicating and trading in a decentralized system, the transformation required to evolve from a totally centralized world to one that is not, will not be met with open arms. To do this, I think we need to radically redefine our thinking about how global finance works today.
Finally, we return to that conversation I had with your colleague. If global e-commerce were just a function of creating a network, it would be difficult. But when we look at the enormous barriers to such a network, and to the political and social and economic barriers, the task can seem daunting.
Because one, there will be fewer and fewer “have-nots” as information and services become universal, and because it is critical that we have a sustainable environment (in every aspect of life). Because two, with the digital network in place that tries to place an objective value on everything, we will have to pay special attention to those subjective values that make life worth living. We will have to preserve our cultures, and preserve those mechanisms … those locations and centers of trade like Katmandu, where cultures can interact and must. And because three, capital has to be distributed by a system that discourages social unrest and anarchy, and encourages cooperation and individual achievement. If not, then we will find more and more people competing for an ever-decreasing supply of resources. The current divide between the rich and poor will only widen.
We really face only two choices going forward: anarchy … or one could say disorganization … chaos … on a global scale … or enlightened leadership. Or, as the 8 year old daughter of a colleague of mine says … “Do we want to make our important decisions based on luck ... or do we want to make them based on respect?”
The Internet will create … if it hasn’t already … the environment connecting everyone on the planet in commerce and communication. The Internet can be the platform for sustainable distribution of capital and wealth. By sustainable, I mean quite simply, if we don’t share all this, it’s not sustainable on any scale. Remember commerce does not mean just money.
What is needed to create sustainability is a global, inclusive, and cooperative e-commerce network that will enable the borderless trade economy. This “network” provides a platform for the exchange of information, capital, goods and services, and of course, culture. It transcends government politics, and it is empowered to act because it is financially powerful and independent. What is this today? Do we have it?
The theories of "mass customization" and "one to one marketing," while American in origin, do not require a continental market and a relatively homogeneous population. The enthusiasms of the American phase of the Internet explosion must evolve into a more diverse, culturally sensitive form as the revolution evolves globally.
It is no small irony that we stand 2000 years or so, and only a few meters from the height of the Roman Civilization … the Forum, the marketplace. The Rome of that time was the center of world commerce. A time when all roads led to Rome … now, all roads lead to everywhere and from everywhere. Marshall McCluhan once invoked St Augustine’s definition of God –– that Being whose presence is everywhere but Who’s center is nowhere — to refer to the Future of Electronic communications 30 years ago –– so where is the center of the Internet?
It is a network of interrelated companies and governments and most importantly people, for global commerce and communication. The Internet covers the world’s spectrum of business, and via the Web, can communicate all facets of business information, deals, trade policies, political and economic shifts, and the changing market dynamics of global commerce. The network must support and accelerate the borderless economy within the Internet paradigm –– the paradigm of accelerated transformation and often unknown objectives –– it has to be inclusive, because by design it is.
With inclusiveness one can create the complexity of a fundamental world that is open to the comprehensiveness of the global trade network as a whole. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what we have to build.
You have been most gracious with your time –– let me just briefly summarize: What I have tried to do today is to give you the perspective of an Internet entrepreneur.
These things we know for sure:
It demands inclusivity not only as a moral imperative, but also as a practical matter.
And as I said of the visionaries … they have a point. They have been able to create through their actions.
I know that the world’s countries are in varying degrees of prosperity. It could be argued, and often is, that the time to talk about egalitarianism, the time to talk about sustainable economies or global networks is after all the world’s people are in relatively the same economic position. In response I can only reiterate what I see and have lived.
The Internet creates the ability to get there from here. And it is already here. Our choices are not…. to have it or not to have it. Our choices are only in the realm of how we will use it to sustain our cultures, to guarantee the continuation of civilization, and to create a level of wealth and commercial intercourse that is hard to imagine. That can only be done, in my view, with enlightened and collaborative leadership.
The changes in technology are easy to institute. Clearly, the most difficult changes will be the changes of political and social will … and these changes will only come as the result of new perspective … something I have tried to provide today.
I can promise you this … I will be at the forefront of this change. I am eager to enlist your partnership. You have honored me with your attention.
Thank you so very much.
Copyright Terry Pearce. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole, or in part, without the express written consent of the author.
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