Originally published in Battle of Ideas festival.
QQ, Tudou, Mixi and CyWorld are not familiar names in the West, but these websites based in China, Japan and South Korea are more popular, profitable and technically innovative than their Western counterparts, MySpace, Facebook and YouTube. South Korea and Japan are the most advanced internet markets in the world, with China and India rapidly catching up. Yet we in the West seem oblivious to the development of such technologies in Asia. The dynamic emerging economies of the East are conveniently pigeonholed as the world’s new manufacturing base (China) or a powerhouse for service industries (India), while the high-end ‘knowledge economy’ is still seen as the preserve of the West. Is it time to revise this view and hail the innovative character of the rising East?
The fast-paced economic development of the emerging economies seems bound up with a wider culture of dynamism. Innovation in China, for example, seems unhindered by the risk-aversion, regulation, and short-term instrumentalism that hampers innovation in the West. So is risk-taking Eastern ‘can-do’ outstripping overly-cautious Western ‘know-how’? How far can the pioneer pragmatism of the emerging economies take us in innovating new technologies? How far can a country such as China really extend the boundaries of technical and intellectual innovation while freedom of thought is confined by censorship, and democracy is curtailed? What, if anything, can the West learn from technical innovation coming out of the emerging economies?
Dr Norman Lewis
director (innovation), PwC; co-author, Big Potatoes: the London manifesto for innovation
poverty and development correspondent, The Times
Head of Sustainability Practice, BT Global Services; formerly, policy adviser, Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit and social protection specialist, World Bank, Washington DC
digital business consultant and writer; co-author, Big Potatoes: the London manifesto for innovation
Martyn Perks digital business consultant and writer; co-author, Big Potatoes: the London manifesto for innovation
Dr Norman Lewis director (innovation), PwC; co-author, Big Potatoes: the London manifesto for innovation