David Halpert: Hello. My name is David Alpert, and I am a UWC Dover parent and also a former scholar from UWC Adriatic and I run a company called Front Street. I asked for time to address this forum to discuss one of my current obsessions, something I've been writing and making films about over the last couple of years, which is the topic of digital decolonisation and digital colonialism.
And this is really an analytical framework, but one I think that may be useful for students, parents, scholars, teachers, etc. as they think about what's going on in the world today. And it's something that is arguably not yet completely in consensus of analysis on various subjects, but it's increasingly a subject that policymakers are starting to talk and thinking about, and that is essentially that a huge concentration of wealth and power now exists in our world in the hands of a very small number of companies Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Alibaba, Tencent and a couple others.
I believe that this imbalance of power, of concentration, of wealth is probably not sustainable and not that good for the world. And I believe together with the issue of climate change and political polarisation, and the breakdown of democratic norms in the world, it's probably worth thinking about and reacting to as we plan our lives, our careers and our intellectual lives as individuals or educations I believe that I Silicon Valley.
I first came to Silicon Valley shortly after I finished my MBA University at the Adriatic and I loved the place. And it's a fantastic place. And I hope as many of you as possible have the chance to visit, study and even work there It really was an extraordinary moment in history. Around the time I came out of school where an amazing world class companies like Apple, Intel and Microsoft, etc., were starting to take off.
And for a long time, these companies were really changing the world for the better, and they were enabling all sorts of wonderful things that we saw. Students, I think, saw a film called The Rise of Big Data, which came out about five or six years ago. But what we saw during COVID were completely dependent on Zoom and these teleconferencing, e-commerce, etc. technologies.
And I'm very grateful to Silicon Valley and indeed to the powers of Hangzhou as well for what they did for us over the last ten, 2030 years. And I think they're amazing companies. But I also think from the perspective of my Singaporean friends or my Indonesian friends, my wife is Indonesian or the people I've gotten to know in South Asia or the Philippines or ever the relationship that they have now with technology companies is beginning to look kind of colonial and in particular with the way Russia and even China are starting to use their technology platforms to achieve political and social goals.
And perhaps to a certain extent the Americans are starting to use technology platforms to achieve political and social goals. I think we need to think about this and we need to think about what kind of world we want our kids to grow up in. And what kind of world we want our own lives and careers to take place in.
So I believe that we have a more diverse and more interesting and richer world going forward. If local and regional technology companies get stronger and if centralised decisions about data and protocols and speech are not completely determined in a very small number of geographic centres. And this is, you know, increasingly people accept this, but it's still a bit controversial and it is difficult because right now, for example, you know, the Internet is pretty much still globally the same.
And, you know, we're all running around with our phones, which are not made by local Singapore companies and things like that. But I think as we look forward into particularly students careers and to a certain extent parents professional lives and even faculty members professional lives, we're going to have the potential to make some choices with regard to this.
And certainly in my job, I've decided to sort of focus in on this question of technology dominance and the potential to disperse this oligopoly through entrepreneurship, hard work allocation of capital and discussing ideas. Now, what can an individual do in the face of this enormous concentration of power? Well, first of all, think about it. Think about how data the raw data plays in your daily life.
Who owns your data? Who controls your data? And to what extent do you have choices? For example, do you want to only read one new service? Do you want to make a specific conscious effort to read other services? Do you want to do all your shopping on Shopee or Amazon or whoever? Or do you want to make a point of seeking out other sources for your economic life?
If you're facing the job market, do you want to sign up for a multinational or do you want to sign up for a local company? Do you want to sign up for a company where you may get better pay and benefits? Day one but not that much stock. Do you want to sign up for a company started in a place that you plan to spend your life and raise your family and maybe not as much money right away, but maybe you wind up as an equity owner?
Do you want to investors savings in Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Tesla, Netflix, or do you want to invest your savings differently? And certainly I'm a former scholar from UMC, Adriatic, and I've not spent my savings much on these big companies and I've invested quite successfully in other stuff but most importantly, I think just to be cognizant of this relationship, which is hard to think about, frankly.
I mean, my phone is an Apple phone, and I search on Google and I'm talking to you on Zoom and goes on from there. It's not you know, I'm very much swimming in this water but I'm doing it, I think, with my eyes open. I hope with my eyes open and thinking about my relationships with technologies and I hope you guys do the same going forward.
I think it makes the world better and I think it makes our lives ultimately more interesting and probably almost certainly more colourful. So thank you, I’m David Halpert. UWC Adriatic. 83-85, and I’m a fan of digital decolonisation.