Like it or not, technology has evolved at a simply staggering pace in the past century or so.
First powered flight to first man on the moon? 66 years.
If you're lucky, that’s not even a ‘lifetime’.
In the 1940s, scientists stood back and proudly unveiled something called a computer. It was 50 feet long and weighed a compact 5 tons. 70 years later, something infinitely more powerful fits easily in your pocket.
So I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that when I look back at the past 20 years in Asia, my first thought tends to be “wow, I remember when…”
(And trust me, after the first couple of years I had in the region, I’m lucky I can remember anything!)
Bangkok, 1993: the internet was still in its infancy; computers were big and slow; the first mobile phones had made their way into the hands of the lucky few, displaying all the sleek ergonomics of a house brick.
Yet Asia was already showing signs of being eager adopters of these and other new technologies. In those days, I was mostly focused on making TV and print advertising. I’d spent 10 years in London working with editors as they practiced their craft on ancient flat-bed machines with spools of real film. No sooner had I arrived in Bangkok than I edited my first film on Avid – and pretty much never saw another frame of celluloid again.
It’s an amazing part of the world to live and work in. Particularly if you have any interest in digital marketing. After all, More than half of Asia’s 3.7 billion people are under 30, and over the course of the past 20 years, they’ve more than simply embraced technology – they’ve found new ways to use it – and produced some simply staggering statistics in the process*:
- There are now over a billion internet users in the region
- In 2012, 102 million users had their very first internet experience
(That’s like adding the population of Belgium to the internet every month)
- Over 800 million people in Asia use social networks
- Mobile phone penetration is now at over 82%
- Together, China and India added over 60 million new mobile subscribers in Q2, 2012
- Internet users in Asia watched almost 45 billion videos – in June 2012 alone
- Asia Pacific now accounts for 31% of global e-commerce revenues
- In China, mobile internet users now outnumber PC-based ones
So a lot has happened in the region since 1993. And this rapid technological evolution has certainly created some interesting opportunities for the clients we work on. With the almost insatiable appetite for video watching, for instance, content creation is now a key part of many of our solutions, while social and mobile are also words that appear on just about every briefing document, too. But one of the most astonishing statistics is the huge number of “new-to-net” consumers arriving every year (a large percentage of whom won’t even have their first internet experience on a desktop-based platform). What brand wouldn’t like to be there to welcome these potentially valuable future customers?
And yet it still feels like things are only just getting started here. There’s a tremendous entrepreneurial spirit in this region that has traditionally been home to merchants, traders and craftsmen. And that includes creating new products for these new Asian consumers; WeChat, developed in China by Tencent, already has 300 million users around the world.
Personally, I can’t wait to see what happens next. The good news is, we probably won’t have to wait long to find out…