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Global policy to spur 2019 digital innovation trends

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Innovations in UAV services could result in rapid proliferation of passenger drone services.
Innovations in UAV services could result in rapid proliferation of passenger drone services.

This year will see the introduction and implementation of global government policies that will influence the next frontier for cross-industry innovations.

These policies are expected to spur new developments in passenger drone services, facial recognition surveillance systems, bio-degradable products, and the introduction of digital services tax laws in some countries across the globe.

This is according to the preliminary 2019 edition of the Flux Trends report, titled: "The State We're In", which provides a glimpse of the key trends for 2019 across various global sectors.

The year 2020 is seen as a landmark for various global policies, research projects and technology developments, and 2019 will be the year where we will see introduction or execution of such policies, as the world struggles to recalibrate from the political, economic and socio-cultural upheavals of 2018, according to the report.

The confluence of technology, business and government will have a significant impact in five sectors, as identified by Dion Chang, founder of trend research and consulting company Flux Trends, and his team.

Technology: Urban air mobility

Implementation of law enforcement policies and innovations in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), around aerial traffic coordination, control and collision-avoidance, could result in rapid proliferation of passenger drones for civilian travel, according to the report.

"While self-driving taxi services are set to become a reality in Phoenix, Arizona and in Helsinki, Finland in 2019, discussions about the next frontier of urban mobility - passenger drones - are already taking place," it adds.

Many companies have already completed test flights of their passenger drone services. Airbus is working on three passenger drones, while exploration and development company Liberty Pioneer offered pre-sales of its model last year.

Chang explains: "When air mobility becomes more regulated around the world, in approximately a decade from now, Africa will start seeing the introduction of these services. If drone technology is already being used extensively in agriculture, mining and to deliver blood and medical supplies in Rwanda, there is no reason why we cannot expect the same on the continent; it's only a matter of time."

Economy: Digital services tax

The worlds of business, technology and politics will collide as governments threaten a digital services tax be imposed on the world's tech giants in 2020. The digital services tax will be a levy imposed on social media platforms, Internet marketplaces and search engines. The European Commission plans to tax tech companies with total annual worldwide revenue of EUR750 million or EU revenue of EUR50 million.

"While there is a very minimal chance of introducing the digital services tax in SA, the introduction of Internet and social media tax in various African countries such as Zambia, Tanzania and Uganda is worrisome. This will result in negative effects on the gross domestic product growth rate, and Internet laws could impact on e-learning initiatives in those countries," Chang warns.

Diplomacy: Surveillance state

The uneasy feeling of "big brother is watching you" is now becoming a reality, with tech companies and governments across the world jumping on the personal data bandwagon, notes Flux Trends.

Many cities around the world are using facial recognition as an important tool for creating safe cities, fighting crime and protecting and tracking citizens. Last year, the City of Johannesburg upgraded its CCTV camera systems and rolled out the first 50 intelligent surveillance cameras aimed at curbing crime.

"China leads the way in this technology, aiming to document each of its citizens via facial recognition by 2023. Zimbabwe also plans to use facial recognition at its border posts. However, there is growing resistance to these developments, with various organisations calling for the regulation of facial recognition and biometric data, as well as for people to retain ownership of their information," Chang points out.

Natural world: The war on plastic

According to the report, 2018 will be remembered as the year we finally realised how devastating our single-use plastic habit has become. In 2019, the battle will escalate into a war.

This year, the narrative around plastic will shift from consumer awareness to government legislation.

"African countries Rwanda, Morocco and Kenya are gradually reaping the benefits of legislating a ban on plastic bags. Kenyans found to be using, selling or producing plastic bags now face four years in prison or a fine of $40 000. Other east African countries such as Tanzania, Burundi and Uganda may follow suit."

Last week, local creative events agency Red Cup Village announced it will launch SA's first 3D-printed bio-degradable cup later this year.

South African retailers have for years been making efforts to reduce single-use plastics. The World Wide Fund for Nature says South Africans use between 30kg and 50kg of plastic per person per year, which is significantly less than the 136kg and 139kg per person per year used in the US and Europe.

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