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What's in Store for Our World in 2013?

Every year, in the last weeks of December, a topic that gives me lots of pleasure and energy becomes the highlight of my agenda: "What's in store for us in the new year?" I read from various sources, note down events and developments that I find striking and of priority, and then use these notes while setting my own personal and professional goals.

My main reference for this exercise is the issue "The World in …" by The Economist, of which I've been a fervent follower for fifteen years now. This time I decided to share the notes, which I used to take for my personal use, on my blog. It's quite hard to summarize a document of almost 150 pages each filled with pieces of information one more interesting than the other. Therefore, I've tried to convey those expectations that could make the headlines, and the most significant milestones.

What's in store for our world in 2013?

What's on the agenda of opinion leaders?

The Big 3: One common item for Obama, China's new president Xi, and Merkel, beyond their busy agendas, will be "recovering global economic growth and sustainability". Another common denominator of the three leaders is preserving the integrity of the EU, and helping it out of stagnation.

The Economy: The economic growth regression in 2012 (3.1% globally, 1.4% in developed economies, 5.1% in emerging economies) is expected to recover slightly in 2013 (3.5% globally, 1.6% in developed economies, 5.8% in emerging economies). Possible risks mentioned are the deepening of the stagnation in the EU, U.S.A.'s financial divide, and cracks in China's success story of growth.

Youth unemployment: While youth unemployment rates are threatening to the extent of a social crisis, be it in Western Europe or the Middle East, it is confusing to observe that there is a continuous and increasing shortage of qualified labor force in organizations according to a survey by McKinsey. Just think about it, the shortage of mid level and top executives in 2020 is projected to be around 85 million! Both the problem and the solution lies in close communication and cooperation between companies, educational institutions, and governments (practical, hands-on learning in school and apprenticeship programs), and rendering competencies transferable between organizations and industries through a certification process.

The return of the "conglomerate" as a business model: Having flourished at a time when venture capital was scarce, this model had fallen from grace recently. Now, we see that it is making a comeback due to the lower risk appetite of financial sources, and this trend is expected to continue.

The obesity issue: What percentage of the world population, do you reckon, is overweight? Make a guess. 35%! If left to its own devices, it will soon be 40%. One expectation from governments is that in 2013 they will ramp up their efforts to incentivize healthy food, and increase taxes on unhealthy food (for instance, the main culprits in excessive weight: carbonated soft drinks with added sugar).

Then, what about the expectations of the business world?

According to a global survey conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit with more then 1500 company leaders;

  • Only 22% expect an improvement in business conditions over the previous year. Although the development looks negative, there is an increase compared to the 14% the year before. Most of the optimists are from the Middle East and Africa with 33%...
  • Considered by industry, there are only two sectors that believe conditions will improve: construction/real estate and education.
  • Most participants think that the situation in China and the U.S.A. will be decisive for the global economic momentum.
  • The majority thinks that banks will not ease credit lines in 2013 either.
  • Comments on growth in specific sectors are as follows:
    Positive: Automotive (U.S.A.- and China-driven), entertainment (video games, online sales), IT services/software (acceleration due to "cloud computing" and "big data")
    Negative: Banking (regulations), pharma (products going off-patent), media (increase in online advertising)

What are the striking developments in the worlds of business, science and technology, and culture?

  • The number of mobile devices connected to Internet (mobile phones, tablets) will outgrow PCs. Mobile application companies will snatch half of the venture funds. Who’s the winner? Apple, of course. The losers’ club: Dell, HP, Microsoft, Nokia, RIM (Blackberry), Sony.
  • Online advertising spend (USD 102 billion) will exceed newspaper ads in 2013.
  • The new industrial revolution will come about with innovations in products and production that have gained momentum thanks to digital technologies, as well as with R&D centers and production sites starting to work side by side again. One striking development in this field is that 3D printers will cease to be prototypes, and will be used increasingly in the production of finished goods as of 2013.
  • While Chinese organizations continue to break records in entering foreign markets, for them to become reliable global brands, acquisitions and partnerships are needed.
  • "Smart" glasses will take center stage. Thanks to Google's leading project, people wearing glasses in the street like in the Terminator movie will be able to instantly surf the Internet, and capture pictures/videos. Those who want both smart and cool glasses will have to wait until after 2013 and for Apple’s product:)
  • Renewable (alternative) energy is expected to catch up with nuclear energy within the next decade. While wind energy is growing rapidly, another promising development that raises hopes for increased production in 2013 is the sharp fall of technological investment costs in solar energy, and the advancements in energy storage capabilities.
  • The shale gas revolution in the U.S. will gain momentum this year. Being the largest energy consumer, the country is expected to become energy-independent in ten years. Therefore, a structural change, particularly in the chemical industry, is expected.
  • Testing for “driverless cars” is expected to increase this year. Optimists project that this technology will be used in traffic in 5 years.
  • The number of Internet-connected devices (washing machines, electricity meters, sensors, etc.) will exceed that of people connected to the Internet!
  • The war of biennials already over 100 in number will continue while the Istanbul Biennial will maintain its popularity in 2013 among this crowd, and attract people making good use of its geographical advantage.
  • Having opened a new museum every single day in 2011, China has included museum investment projects in its 5-year national plan, being as ambitious in culture as in other areas.
  • Music exhibitions? That’s right, some famous museums/galleries will offer interesting projects in the new year. David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, Women Who Rock are just a few examples.

In a nutshell, in 2013 our world will again be very dynamic, relatively more positive, but probably still volatile… Considering that this will be coupled with technology and mobility continuing to change our lives at a mind-blowing speed, I guess it's best for us to focus on the moment rather than try to guess this year...

If you say, fine, that was the world, what about "Turkey in 2013", I think that magazine is still waiting for its entrepreneur, and in equal parts, investigative and hardworking editor, to be published :)

Kind regards,

Mehmet N. Pekarun