This is a digital world. And in this world, we are on the verge of lifting up entire economies, improving education, and changing the life outcomes of billions of people.

We just have to improve connectivity.

As Manuel Castells, distinguished author and oft-cited Professor for Communication Technology and Society at University of Southern California has stated, “The Internet is the decisive technology of the Information Age, as the electrical engine was the vector of technological transformation of the Industrial Age… this global network of computer networks, largely based nowadays on platforms of wireless communication, provides ubiquitous capacity of multimodal, interactive communication in chosen time, transcending space.[1]. Castells further adds,

The Internet ensures the production, distribution, and use of digitized information in all formats

calling out a 2011 study published by Martin Hilbert in Science noting that 95 percent of all information existing in the planet is digitized and most of it is accessible on the Internet and other computer networks.[2]

Furthermore, as the McKinsey Global Institute has pointed out, there is a strong correlation between access to the Internet and one’s contribution to wealth creation, making possible “…new waves of business models and entrepreneurship” as well as “radical innovations for accessing, using, and delivering goods and services for everyone.” [3]

Given the impact of this global network, it should have surprised no one when in June of 2016, the United Nations issued a declaration on the importance of connectivity and that the access to the Internet and online freedom is a human right. The UN Resolution called on nations to apply “a comprehensive human rights-based approach when providing and expanding access to the internet and for the internet to be open, accessible and nurtured.”[4]

Unfortunately, there are nearly 4 billion people who lack Internet connectivity. These are 4 billion people who cannot benefit from the societal and economic benefits brought about by connectivity.[5] It is not that this less-connected half of the population doesn’t have the potential for access. In Facebook’s 2017 State of Connectivity Report, they found that 94% of the population in its surveyed nations live within range of a mobile signal.

[1] Manuel Castells, The Impact of the Internet on Society: A Global Perspective, 2014, (Source: http://bit.ly/2u14c9w)

[2] Martin Hilbert and Priscila Lopez, The World’s Technological Capacity to Store, Communicate, and Compute Information, Science, 2011 (Source: http://bit.ly/2u1dYs9)

[3] McKinsey Global Institute, Internet matters: The Net’s sweeping impact on growth, jobs, and prosperity, 2011, (Source: http://bit.ly/2tXIgfC)

[4] U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, HRC, Resolution A/HRC/32/L.20, 2016, (Source: http://bit.ly/2sUVsSQ)

[5] World Internet Usage and Population Statistics, published by Nielsen Online and the International Telecommunications Union, March 2017, as published on www.InternetWorldStats.com (Source: http://bit.ly/JNZ65e)

Because of all these factors, we believe strongly that providing global connectivity and access is simply the right thing to do.

The Digitization of Everything

We live in an amazing time that has been transformed by the smart phone. As of the end of 2016, there are now more than 3.8 billion smart phone subscriptions, and this number is forecast to double (6.8 billion) by 2022[1]. While most look at the impact of connectivity that these smart phones bring, I believe the less studied area—and an area that truly fascinates me—is what I call the digitization of everything.

Every smart phone has a magical ability to transform the physical world surrounding its holder into one that is digital.

This mystical property is one that would have dumbfounded your great, great, great grandparents perhaps more than any other invention. Think about this from the context of a time traveller going back a mere 175 years ago.[2] One is now able to take photos, videos, record music, transcribe and transmit words, translate languages, and even create 3D models capable of being printed anywhere in the world.

Thought itself is now digitized. Some millennia before, original thought was only verbal, told from one person to another. A gifted few had the ability to transcribe these words onto parchment, walls, signs, and into art. Now, a musician can compose and record a song where every note is preserved. A poet can marvel at the world around them, sharing their observations for future scholars to compare. An artist can create art in the physical and take a photo or video of it for the enjoyment of everyone.

The physical world is now documented into digital form. Even many of the most basic smart phones contain enough sensors to track environmental conditions: from light conditions, to temperature, to humidity, to geo-location, to noise levels, to various motion and positional sensors.[3]

Work itself is now digitized. Before, all work required the user be physically present: in a factory, in a field, or a shop floor. Now ‘work’ involves creating thoughts and transferring this into digital goods and services that can be transmitted globally.

Borderless Digital Commerce

So what happens when the physical world becomes digital? I believe we are starting to see a complete restructuring of society that no longer requires jurisdictional boundaries and borders. If thought itself is now digital and can move freely at the speed of light from one side of the planet to another, the artificially-imposed barrier of the physical world, it should be allowed to flow freely to the will of the person who created that digital construct.

Are you an artist in Argentina? Take a photo of the sunrise and market it to the world. A musician in Mozambique? Record your songs and make this available for any to consume. A scholar in Sri Lanka? Publish your works and collaborate with peers in Paris.

The other day, I commissioned a photo on the web service Fiver (where you can get anything for $5, plus a $1 service fee). It was nothing complicated, but I needed a certain shot for a project that I was working on. The photographer and model was in Brazil. The image was captured via the user’s smartphone,

digitized, then sent ‘magically’ across borders. Less than a generation ago, connecting to get this specific photo from this specific seller would involve complicated communications as well as physically developing the photo negatives near the location, before expensive travel and transport to get the photo into my hands. In other words, without digitization it wouldn’t have been done.

But even with this digitization, there remains massive friction in the transmission of money between jurisdictions. We believe that blockchain and cryptographic currencies will solve this pain allowing seamless, borderless digital commerce.

Combining Connectivity, Digitization, and Borderless Commerce

So what we have been talking about is the digitization of value. Any smart phone—or for that matter any sensor or electronic device—that produces something of use for another, either controlled by a user or by an autonomous agent, is doing ‘work’. And those who produce this work are entitled to be compensated, should they wish, for the value that they create.

When you put it all together: pervasive connectivity, the digitization of the physical world, plus the ability to transact commerce across jurisdictions safely and securely, the world looks much different than it does today.

Imagine, a smart phone owner in India converting solar energy into processing power on their device. Now imagine a user in South Africa who uses that processing power to render a 3D model that was commissioned by another smartphone user in Canada. Each participant’s contribution is valued based on what they believe is a fair price. This is a true global market that is friction free and benefits all who participate.

I started this post talking about being on the verge of lifting up entire economies. If we can bring connectivity to the 4 billion people who cannot presently connect, we can create an entirely new class of digital entrepreneur that is compensated justly for value they create.

And this, my friends, is why we are creating RightMesh. Because it is the right thing to do.