I am part of the 100 Netpreneurs that Alibaba selected in Italy and I have the chance to be involved in a great brainstorming session.
We are digitally working on the DingTalk Platform and this way of learning and exchanging ideas is just the first exiting experience of the Chinese way of living and working.
We started last week, and during the first session we had to think about how China reached its modernization and at which stage the current digital situation is in our country.
So, let me share some of my first ideas on China’s great development and about the future of Italy. Some considerations may appear to be more philosophical than technical but I really believe that thoughts are at the base of every creative process.
And the development of a country in itself is a creative process.
If you want to induce real development and change the lives of people, you first need a long-term vision, and this is the essence of philosophy. China’s development plan started with Deng Xiao Ping and still continues today with every 5 years’ plan.
In a certain way, Jack Ma and Alibaba started with the same vision. They wanted to introduce the internet in China and help the growth of small businesses.
The mission was not easy but every crisis is an opportunity and Alibaba innovated and moved further every time it found a problem to solve. The solution has always ended with the creation of a new branch and new services to the small companies.
Instead, Western capitalism culture behaves more like a predator. We are not used to listening to this solution. Meanwhile Eastern culture tries to create harmony even in business.
The story of the Alibaba ‘ecosystem’ reminds me of the Japanese keiretsu. The ecosystem seems to be a mix between Chinese and a modern way to create industrial cooperation. An evolution of keiretsu.
The actual problem for Alibaba (it is more a challenge than a problem) is how to become the most important global social e-commerce across borders. That is why it has created Netpreneur. The aim of the Program Netpreneur is to create a group of CEOs that can behave as a collective brain and create new opportunities for all.
We know that the growth of Alibaba is stressing the collaboration with Chinese Government and other competitors as Bytedance is quickly arriving on the scene.
But if Bytedance is following the western business style more, Alibaba created an Eco-system. I like the word ‘eco-system’, the link of 2 words that come from ancient Greek and Latin and their meaning can really be the link between Eastern and Western Culture.
I wish to speak Chinese to better feel this attitude and meanwhile I will keep participating in this Netpreneur course.
Italy’s digital economy development
Italy is one of the most unusual countries in the world. I always quote the Hungarian mathematician Laszlo Mero who is an expert in Game Theory. In most of his theories concerning people’s behaviour, he writes that normal rules cannot be applied to Italian people. He says that our behaviour is unpredictable.
In the last 30 years we didn’t really have a government with a long-term vision and each one of us had to solve daily problems by him/herself. Despite everything, despite the fact that we change governments every 6 months – and that each government likes to publish a huge number of new laws that we have to learn – we are performing.
Covid 19 is changing our situation and now digitalization is penetrating into our society. And even if bureaucracy is going slower, we are catching up with modernization. I can really say that we are slowly moving towards digitalization but we are far away from China.
My feeling is that in 10 years’ time there will be something totally different from today and we will do several leapfrogs.
It is the story of western credit card and Chinese Payment Apps. What was a delay in technology has been a leapfrog to the future for China that passed from paper money to App payment.
The same leap forward that has been done by developing countries in telecom with the introduction of mobile phones. They didn’t have to build the land lines to connect their countries to the future.
So, Italy can have a jump into the future with the introduction of new technologies and what is an actual delay can be a point of strength. But Italy will not be the main country of the world. Maybe the nicest and the best place to live, but we will not be the drive force of world change.
I don’t really have the feeling of what will happen with 5G or IOT technologies and I cannot predict a single action. I can only state that changes are driven by people’s habits and these are nearly the same everywhere. More than in technology, I will look for answers in sociology. I will ask for help with the BET (Behavioural Economic Theory) and psychology.
We are definitely facing a new world order and we will become more and more a global player and world citizens.
An example? The introduction of Tik Tok social network shows that an integration of eastern and western consumers is possible. And in the last years Digital Entertainment and Gaming Industries have no borders and players are immediately part of international networks.
Smart Tourism will be another strong push towards world social integration. But this is another story to write.
Coming back to Italy, I feel that the introduction of cross borders ecommerce – such as Taobao – can boost our digital transformation faster than forecasted and in an unpredictable way. It can be a socio-economic revolution.
And the digitalization of SMEs and consumers will naturally bring the digitalization of bureaucracy and maybe a form of ‘next’ Taobao can be our leap forward.