Globalization for the little guy

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GLOBAL NEWS

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Digitization has opened the door for emerging economies, small businesses, and individuals to participate directly in globalization.

More than 20,000 independent designers and artists showcase their work on Pinkoi, a Taiwan-based online marketplace. The company has connected with customers in more than 47 countries, using Facebook to expand its reach throughout the Asia–Pacific region.

The Estonian start-up coModule has created technology that brings the Internet of Things to electric bikes and scooters. The prototype was unveiled in Barcelona, seed funding came from Germany, and components are sourced in China. The company is scaling up production and eyeing user markets across Europe and Asia.

Dr. Chibuzo Anaso has developed an app that helps diabetes patients take charge of their condition. As the product took off in his home market of South Africa, patients in Nigeria and Kenya learned about it through Facebook and Twitter—and today two-thirds of its subscribers come from across the broader African continent and the Middle East.

Globalization was once driven almost exclusively by the world’s governments, large multinational corporations, and major financial institutions. But now—thanks to digital platforms with global reach—artisans, entrepreneurs, app developers, freelancers, small businesses, and even individuals can participate directly. New research from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) uses novel data to analyze the extent of the connections and their economic impact.

The biggest of these online platforms have grown to a scale never before seen (Exhibit 1), and their users are increasingly international. Individuals from Canada to Cameroon can forge their own global connections, whether for business, personal ties, entertainment, education, or simple curiosity about the world beyond their own borders. MGI analysis of international ties on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and WeChat shows that some 900 million people have at least one international connection on social-media platforms (even adjusting for overlap between their users). More than 12 percent of Facebook friendships are between people living in different countries, and half of active Facebook users have at least one cross-border friend—a threefold increase from 2014.

 

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