This report was produced by The Rockefeller Foundation and Global Business Network.
Letter from Judith Rodin 4
Letter from Peter Schwartz 6
WHY SCENARIOS? 9
WHY TECHNOLOGY? 10
THE FOCAL QUESTION 1 1
ENGAGING YOUR IMAGINATION 11
The Scenario Framework 13
CHOOSING THE CRITICAL UNCERTAINTIES 14
GLOBAL POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC ALIGNMENT 15
ADAPTIVE CAPACITY 15
THE SCENARIO NARRATIVES 17
Lock step 18
Clever Together 26
Hack Attack 34
Smart Scramble 42
Concluding Thoughts 49
Letter from Judith Rodin
President of the Rockefeller Foundation
The Rockefeller Foundation supports work that expands opportunity and strengthens resilience to social, economic, health, and environmental challenges — affirming its pioneering philanthropic mission, since 1913, to "promote the well-being" of humanity. We take a synergistic, strategic approach that places a high value on innovative processes and encourages new ways of seeking ideas, to break down silos and encourage interdisciplinary thinking.
One important— and novel — component of our strategy toolkit is scenario planning,
a process of creating narratives about the future based on factors likely to affect a particular set of challenges and opportunities. We believe that scenario planning has great potential for use in philanthropy to identify unique interventions, simulate and rehearse important decisions that could have profound implications, and highlight previously undiscovered areas of connection and intersection. Most important, by providing a methodological structure that helps us focus on what we don't know — instead of what we already know — scenario planning allows us to achieve impact more effectively.
The results of our first scenario planning exercise demonstrate a provocative and engaging exploration of the role of technology and the future of globalization, as you will see in the following pages.
This report is crucial reading for anyone interested in creatively considering the multiple, divergent ways in which our world could evolve. The sparks of insight inspiring these narratives — along with their
implications for philanthropy as a whole — were generated through the invaluable collaboration of grantee representatives, external experts, and Rockefeller Foundation staff. I offer a special thanks to Peter Schwartz, Andrew Blau, and the entire team at Global Business Network, who have helped guide us through this stimulating and energizing process.
Leading this effort at the Rockefeller Foundation is our Research Unit, which analyzes emerging risks and opportunities and thinks imaginatively about how to
respond to the complex, rapidly changing world around us. This outward-looking intelligence function adopts a cross-cutting mindset that synthesizes and integrates
knowledge that accelerates our ability to act more quickly and effectively. It has also helped to shape and build the notion of "pro-poor foresight" that is committed to applying forward-looking tools and techniques to improve the lives of poor and vulnerable populations around the world.
I hope this publication makes clear exactly why my colleagues and I are so excited about the promise of using scenario planning to develop robust strategies and offer a refreshing viewpoint on the possibilities that lie ahead.
The Rockefeller Foundation
Letter from Peter Schwartz
Co founder and Chairman of Global Business Network
We are at a moment in history that is full of opportunity. Technology is poised to transform the lives of millions of people throughout the world, especially those who have had little or no access to the tools that can deliver sustainable improvements for their families and communities. From farmers using mobile phones to buy and sell crops to doctors remotely monitoring and treating influenza outbreaks in rural villages, technology is rapidly becoming more and more integral to the pace and progress of development.
Philanthropy has a unique and critical role to play in this process. By focusing its patience, capital, and attention on the links between technology and international
development, philanthropy will change not just lives but the very context in which the field of philanthropy operates. This report represents an initial step in that direction. It explores four very different — yet very possible — scenarios for the future of technology and development in order to illuminate the challenges
and opportunities that may lie ahead. It promotes a deeper understanding of the complex forces and dynamics that will accelerate or inhibit the use of technology to spur growth, opportunity, and resilience especially in the developing world.
Finally, it will seed a new strategic conversation among the key public, private, and philanthropic stakeholders about technology and development at the policy, program, and human levels.
The Rockefeller Foundation's use of scenario planning to explore technology and international development has been both inspired and ambitious. Throughout my
40-plus-year career as a scenario planner, I have worked with many of the world's leading companies, governments, foundations, and nonprofits — and I know firsthand the power of the approach. Scenario planning is a powerful tool precisely because
the future is unpredictable and shaped by many interacting variables. Scenarios enable us to think creatively and rigorously about the different ways these forces may interact, while forcing us to challenge our own assumptions about what we believe or hope the future will be. Scenarios embrace and weave together multiple perspectives and provide an ongoing framework for spotting and making sense of
important changes as they emerge. Perhaps most importantly, scenarios give us a new, shared language that deepens our conversations about the future and how we can help to shape it.
The Rockefeller Foundation has already used this project as an opportunity to clarify and advance the relationship between technology and development.
Through interviews and the scenario workshops, they have engaged a diverse set of people— from different geographies, disciplines, and sectors — to identify the key forces driving change, to explore the most critical uncertainties, and to develop
challenging yet plausible scenarios and implications. They have stretched their thinking far beyond theoretical models of technology innovation and diffusion in order to imagine how technology could actually change the lives of people from many walks of life. This is only the start of an important conversation that will continue to shape the potential of technology and international development going forward. I look forward to staying a part of that conversation and to the better future it will bring.
Cofounder and Chairman
Global Business Network
For decades, technology has been dramatically changing not just the lives of individuals in developed countries, but increasingly the lives and livelihoods of people throughout the developing world. Whether it is a community mobile phone, a solar panel, a new farming practice, or a cutting- edge medical device, technology is altering the landscape of possibility in places where possibilities used to be scarce.
And yet looking out to the future, there is no
single story to be told about how technology will continue to help shape — or even revolutionize — life in developing countries. There are many possibilities, some good and some less so, some known and some unknowable. Indeed, for everything we think we can anticipate about how technology and international development will interact and intertwine in the next 20 years and beyond, there is so much more that we
cannot yet even imagine.
For philanthropies as well as for other organizations, this presents a unique challenge:
given the uncertainty about how the future will play out, how can we best position ourselves not just to identify technologies that improve the lives of poor communities but also to help scale and spread those that emerge? And how will the social, technological, economic, environmental, and political conditions of the future enable or inhibit our ability to do so?
The Rockefeller Foundation believes that in order to understand the many ways in which technology will impact international development in the future, we must first broaden and deepen our individual and collective understanding of the range of possibilities.
This report, and the project upon which it is based,
is one attempt to do that. In it, we share the outputs and insights from a year-long project,
undertaken by the Rockefeller Foundation and
Global Business Network (GBN), designed to explore the role of technology in international development through scenario planning, a methodology in which GBN is a long-time leader.
This report builds on the Rockefeller Foundation's growing body of work in the emerging field of pro-poor foresight. In 2009, the Institute for Alternative Futures published the report Foresight for Smart Globalization:
Accelerating and Enhancing Pro-Poor Development Opportunities, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation. That effort was a reflection of the Foundation's strong commitment to exploring innovative processes and embracing new pathways for insight aimed at helping the world's poor. With this report, the Foundation takes a further step in advancing the field of pro-poor foresight, this time through the lens of scenario planning.
The goal of this project was not to affirm what is already known and knowable about what is happening right now at the intersections of technology and development. Rather, it was to explore the many ways in which technology and development could co-evolve — could both push and inhibit each other — in the future, andthen to begin to examine what those possible alternative paths may imply for the world's
poor and vulnerable populations.
Such an exercise required project participants to push
their thinking far beyond the status quo, into uncharted territory.
Scenario planning is a methodology designed to help guide groups and individuals through exactly this creative process. The process begins by identifying forces of change in the world, then combining those forces in different ways to create a set of diverse stories — or scenarios — about how the future could evolve.
Scenarios are designed to stretch our thinking about both the opportunities and obstacles that the future might hold; they explore, through narrative, events and dynamics that might alter, inhibit, or enhance current trends, often in surprising ways. Together, a set of scenarios captures a range of future possibilities,
good and bad, expected and surprising — but always plausible. Importantly, scenarios are not predictions. Rather, they are thoughtful hypotheses that allow us to imagine, and then to rehearse, different strategies for how to be more prepared for the future — or more ambitiously, how to help shape better futures ourselves.
Technology was chosen as a focal point of this
project because of its potentially trans-formative
role— both in a positive and negative way — in
addressing a wide range of development
challenges, from climate change, healthcare, and agriculture to housing, transportation, and education. Yet while there is little doubt that technology will continue to be a driver of change across the developing world in the future, the precise trajectory along which technological innovation will travel is highly uncertain.
For example, will critical technological advances come from the developed world, or will innovators and their innovations be more geographically dispersed? Or, how might the global economic and political environment affect the pace of technology development?
It is important to state that in focusing on technology, this project did not set out to identify a set of exact, yet-to-be-invented technologies that will help shape and change the future. Rather, the goal was to gain a broader and richer understanding of different paths
along which technology could develop — paths
that will be strongly influenced by the overall global environment in which the inventors and adopters of those technologies will find themselves working and dwelling. Technology,as a category, cannot be divorced from the context in which it develops. The scenarios
shared in this report explore four such contexts, each of which, as you'll see, suggests very different landscapes for technology and its potential impacts in the developing world.
Finally, a note about what we mean by
"technology." In this report, we use the term to
refer to a broad spectrum of tools and methods of
organization. Technologies can range from tools
for basic survival, such as a treadle pump and
basic filtration technologies, to more advanced innovations, such as methods of collecting and utilizing data in health informatics and novel building materials with real-time environmental sensing capabilities. This
report focuses on themes associated with the
widespread scalability, adoption, and assessment of technology in the developing world. While the scenarios themselves are narratives about the global environment, we have paid particular attention to how events might transpire in sub- Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and India.