A borderless world

Following my previous post on “what it means to be digital in Estonia,” one question that keeps coming back to me is how we work and live in the future in a world enabled by emerging technologies.

One view is that with the changing dynamics in economic development around the world and the continuing fast pace of technology advancement, the current and future generation will inevitably see and experience an increasingly “borderless world.”

What is a borderless world?

It is not about the lack of physical borders or the elimination of passports. In fact, it is a higher-order concept about how people and organizations could work, transact, operate, and really live more efficiently and effectively accessing resources that they may not have had before and perhaps at the same time regardless of their location and time zone.

How is a borderless world different from globalization?

To me, globalization is about macro integration and harmonization of policies, best practices, culture, mindset, and infrastructures to enable economic development around the world. A borderless world is about distribution and enabling individuals in different locations with different expertise and needs or preferences to have similar access to information, resources, or opportunities.

Let’s imagine an individual in year 2025 living in a different country every 3 months but working for the same employer. Other than his or her nationality, which is fixed, what should be his or her legal residency? Where does he or she file taxes? How can this individual open bank accounts and transfer money efficiently across borders? How does this individual access healthcare? How can a country verify this individual’s background as he or she moves?

Let’s also imagine from a business perspective. How can a business (retail / consumer products, healthcare, insurance, retail banking) best serve this customer who is on constant move? How can a business verify the individual identity where required and also price the service properly (think insurance)? How can a business attract and retain this individual?

For any CEO thinking about future customers and employees, these questions are relevant.

While we can debate on the terminology and definition of the terms, in practice, there are emerging tech companies (many of which we are know well) are already enabling and accelerating the formation of a borderless world. For example, Amazon is a pioneer and well understood so I will not cover that here.

TRANSPORTATION

This is an obvious one.

Uber is transforming access to local transportation and in turn access to cities. Through Uber’s global technology network, more cities without sufficient public transportation and taxi services are now more accessible. Uber’s partnership with Toyota and its car financing program with Goldman Sachs will further expand Uber’s reach globally.

HOUSING & LIVING

Another obvious one.

Airbnb is transforming the supply and demand dynamics of housing for travelers and “nomad” individuals. Through Airbnb’s global technology network, increased supply of longer term housing provides individuals alternatives when traveling or moving from city to city. Airbnb is also reimagining what corporate housing could be.

Teleport is transforming the accessibility, transparency and quality of information about cities around the world so any individuals can obtain adequate research and planning before moving.

EDUCATION

Education is being further democratized and transformed through online technology learning platforms and micro-learning apps.

Udacity is an online learning platform providing “Nanodegrees” in technology and data science including a Masters degree in Computer Science co-offered by Georgia Institute of Technology. Individuals around the world can sign up to Udacity and start learning.

MOOCs (“Massive Open Online Courses) are continuing to gain momentum with premier universities creating and teaching online courses, some of which are free, to students around the world.

Micro-learning mobile apps unpack complex concepts and lessons into consumable bites delivered through intuitive and “gamified” mobile experience. One example isSmartup.io. Many students around the world are now preparing tests like SATs and GMATs through mobile apps.

HEALTHCARE

Today, healthcare plan is generally offered by employers or by government. For many, healthcare is not meeting the needs of the individual or accessible at all. In a borderless world, any individual could sign up for his or her health insurance and find doctors and healthcare services virtually, depending on his or her preference in service and price.

Oscar, a startup in NYC, is doing exactly that. It is providing a virtual marketplace that allows individuals to choose health insurance plan with 24/7 doctor-on-demand program that he or she can afford and prefers. The marketplace is also transforming the relationship and connection between brokers and providers.

PERSONAL FINANCE & INVESTING

Technology is making retail banking and capital market more accessible for individuals and businesses.

Mobile apps such as Robinhood enable any individual wishing to invest in stocks and ETFs to trade on the app with minimal transaction cost. Its algorithms are taking out traditional intermediaries and making personal investing more accessible.

Monese, based in the UK, is the first bank on an app. As long as the identity of the individual is verified, the individual can open an UK bank account on Monese from anywhere in Europe without walking into a bank.

Funderbeam, a trading platform that allows individual investors to invest in or sell private securities through syndicates, are reimagining what future stock exchange could look like. Any organization can list on this pre-IPO platform and gain access to global capital. Funderbeam’s blockchain-enabled infrastructure is automating the entire trade and settlement workflow of a securities exchange.

EMPLOYMENT

Moving beyond freelance marketplaces that typically focus on local talent, global talent platforms like Jobbatical is enabling any individual around the world to look for relevant and interesting employment experiences around the world. It also provides an opportunity for countries with limited talent pool to market job opportunities to a more global audience.

I am sure there are more examples out there.

I am curious and excited to see what will be “borderless world 2.0” enabled by emerging tech as the next wave of companies take shape.