Economists and visionary business leaders agree that due to rising inequality, environmental degradation and the profound impact of emerging technologies on human life, the future will not be a gradual extension of the past.
The question is: how can businesses use the present moment as an opportunity to create a thriving future for our societies? To address this urgent question, Accenture conducted a study across 14 countries that provides a glimpse into the future of five emerging lifestyles that have been accelerated by changes in individual choices and that put the role of businesses into the spotlight.
Firstly, the study states that “the state of health influences where we can travel”.
According to Willie Schoeman, MD of Accenture Technology in Africa, restrictions will not curb the desire for adventure and exploration in the years to come. “They will however change the experience of travelling.
“Businesses must get ready to put care-centric innovation at the heart of their future offerings. Improved and broad access to health services will be expected, which will require the development of more affordable, easily accessible and digitally secure health management products and services,” he says.
Secondly, environmental concerns drive new modes of transport.
The study reveals that In the next decade, low touch micro-vehicles, such as rentable bikes, e-bikes and e-scooters, will become increasingly attractive for urban commuters, as they are cheaper and time-saving alternatives to other modes of transport.
“There are already positive signs that businesses and governments are coming together to design a future that encourages different modes of personal transportation, while also looking after the environment,” says Schoeman, adding that leaders will be those who push the imaginative boundaries of what mobility will look like decades from now, and make progressive investments in environmentally-friendly solutions.
Affordable technology is set to increase economic self-sufficiency. According to the study, youth unemployment remains high with 35,5-million people between the ages of 15 and 24 were seeking jobs unsuccessfully in 2019. Even for young people who are employed, personal income is declining.
“Many young people are living precarious existences, and their prospects have only been worsened by the crisis. Thus, new employment and income generating alternatives for young people will be sought after in the coming years,” states Schoeman. “As younger, digital-savvy micro-entrepreneurs become more active in the workforce and the economy, businesses have the responsibility to help them get ahead by rethinking their role and measuring their impact on indirect job creation in the society at large.”
High density urban areas demand for smarter habitats that inspire more connected living.
These technology-enabled residential neighbourhoods are designed to offer more vibrant, versatile and sustainable living spaces. According to Accenture, workforce migration is expected to intensify demand for more connected living, both within megacities and in smaller cities.
“Beyond the responsible handling of data, key enablers of smarter habitats such as a hyper-connected 5G network, internet of things and renewable energy infrastructure, will be integral to the commercial and residential estate designs of the future,” says Schoeman. “There are many opportunities for businesses to not only inspire the imagination, but also encourage urban residents to experience the future benefits of living in smarter habitats. Smart city visionaries must find the right model for use and protection of people’s personal information.”
Lastly, responsible denizens fuel stronger local economies. The 2020 country lockdowns caused mass disruptions to global supply chains and food security became a concern for citizens around the world, most of whom cannot grow their own food.
Schoeman says: “We envisage that future denizens will pay closer attention to resource scarcity and the impacts that their spending habits have on local communities. They will demand greater transparency from suppliers, especially when it comes to the origin of goods.” For businesses this does not mean the end of global supply chains but rather, the beginning of a new balance.
“Businesses need to respond by significantly improving supply chain transparency and resilience, and doubling down on business models that are responsible by design,” he explains.
Overall, businesses will need to create the right conditions by harnessing human ingenuity and today’s technologies – from artificial intelligence, to Internet of Things to blockchain – so that more people across our societies can gain access to and enjoy the emerging lifestyles.
“Converting such technology-enabled lifestyles into the new norm will be up to the early adopters, as well as visionary businesses who act early,” he concludes.