Being constantly connected online has bad consequences: harming memory, make you stupid

How much is too much?: Studies have found that Internet is harming our memory, especially short-term or working memory
How Smart Phones Make You Stupid
– Consumer Association of Penang (CAP)

Being constantly connected to the digital world has its consequences – setting the rules with social media

In order to have a more harmonious marriage, H and I have decided that we need some rules.

Recently, we came up with Rule No. 1: You can only repeat something once.

It’s been really helpful in keeping the nagging level of our marriage down. In the past, we would nag at each other quite a bit.

It has worked so well, we thought we should introduce more rules.

A few weeks back, he suggested Rule No. 2: No Googling and checking of e-mail at the dining table and just before we sleep.

I baulked.

What a ridiculous rule, I said. It’ll be impossible for me to agree to it and it’s not fair because it’s targeted at me.

How can I not be checking my e-mail all the time, I continued. I am a journalist. I must know what’s happening and I must be contactable 24/7. What if a story breaks? I need to know at once. I was, of course, exaggerating my own importance.

The world and the newsroom chug along just fine whether or not I am online. My bosses don’t expect me to be constantly connected (I think).

I was using work as an excuse. An excuse for an affliction I am finally coming around to acknowledging, but which H has noticed for some time: I have an addiction.

I have an addiction to Googling, to my smartphone, to my iPad, to being connected to the digital world.

My phone follows me everywhere I go. I sleep with it inches away from my pillow and my nights (as well as his) are punctuated with beeps, blips and pings from the many message notifications streaming in.

I check my phone goodness knows how many times a day, to look at my e-mail, WhatsApp, Telegram, Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Instagram and a few other apps.

When I’m at the cinema, I’m one of those irritating people whose phone screen lights up during a movie because I’m checking it.

I literally break out in a cold sweat when I misplace my phone.

At home, I walk around not only with my phone, but also my tablet.

I am addicted to Googling on my iPad. I can spend an entire day in bed just Googling (oh, bliss). Sometimes, when the Wi-Fi speed is acting up, I Google on both my phone and tablet at the same time, just in case one gets to the information I want quicker.

“You’re addicted,” H says.

“I’m not,” I say. “It’s my job. I am not addicted. I know when to stop.”

To prove my point, I went onto Google (of course) to try out some are-you-an-Internet-addict tests.

The most helpful article I came across was in Yahoo by Dr James Roberts, a professor of marketing at Baylor University in Texas in the United States.

He explained that anything that can produce pleasure in our brain has the potential of becoming addictive and what makes something an addiction is when we lose control.

Research, he said, has identified “six signs” of any type of substance or behavioural addiction.

These signs relate to issues connected to salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal, conflict and relapse. I have a problem. But the situation isn’t that dire, I’d like to think.

Still, I shouldn’t be complacent. It can’t be pleasant living with someone who doesn’t give you her full attention because her nose is always stuck in a screen. It is also rude.

At work, I have got into the bad habit of not looking at colleagues I’m talking to because I’m also typing away on my phone or computer.

At meetings when I’m just the slightest bit bored, I find it hard to resist reaching for my phone and checking my e-mail, which is impolite to the person who’s speaking.

My attachment to my devices can be dangerous – I walk and text a lot. The intense and constant staring at screens is causing eye strain.

Studies have also found that the Internet is harming our memory, especially short-term or working memory.

Information overload and distractions – hallmarks of Internet surfing – make it harder to retain information in our brains.

When we know a digital device holds information for us, we are also less likely to remember it ourselves. It has been years since I memorised anyone’s telephone number. I’m not even sure I can do it now.

Having so much information at my fingertips has made my brain lazy and mushy.Google makes you feel clever when you really aren’t.

Also, while social media like Facebook have been praised for bringing people closer, they can in fact isolate us when we use them in place of face-to-face interactions.

As for H and me, I think I should agree to some version of Rule No. 2 if I want a happier marriage.

Totally no Googling and checking of e-mail at the dining table and just before we sleep might not be doable.

But I can live with “less” Googling and checking of e-mail. One step at a time

By Sumiko Tan The Straits Times/Asia News Network

Nabbed Briton in Malaysia among five terror suspects, married 12 times

KUALA LUMPUR: A part-time English teacher from Britain who fought as an al-Qaeda militant in Afghanistan and Bosnia, is among the latest group of five men arrested for being involved in Islamic State (IS) and other terror groups.

Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division nabbed the 44-year-old Briton together with a 25-year-old Bangladeshi, a 29-year-old Nigerian, a 31-year-old Indonesian and a 59-year-old Malaysian, who is also a Rela member, in a se


Inspector-General of

ries of raids in Selangor, Kelantan, Johor and here between Nov 16 and Dec 1. Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said the British national, a Muslim convert who had been under surveillance for some time, was arrested in Jalan Duta on Nov 16.

“He fought in Afghanistan and Bosnia after joining al-Qaeda. He was working as a part-time English teacher in Penang and we have been monitoring him closely,” the IGP said.

The Nigerian, who had been using his guise as a student in a private college in Petaling Jaya for his terrorism-related activities, was arrested a day later.

Investigators believe that he is actively connected to terror groups in Africa.

Both the Briton and Nigerian have since been deported.

The three other suspects, an Indonesian, a Bangladeshi and a Malaysian, are believed to have links to the IS.

The Indonesian, identified as the leader of the cell, was nabbed on Dec 1 in Benut, Pontian, where he was working as a mechanic.

The IGP said the man had performed the bai’ah (pledge of loyalty) to IS’ “Caliph” Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi via Facebook in mid 2014.

“We also believe that he is one of the main persons recruiting and sending trained militants to Syria. We suspect that he has been arranging travels for IS followers in Malaysia and other South-East Asian countries,” he added.

It was learnt that the Indonesian had direct connections with known Malaysian militants, including former “The Ukays” band drummer Akil Zainal.

Akil, a Universiti Teknologi Mara graduate, was among the first batch of Malaysians who went to Syria and publicly declared support for militant groups.

The two other cell members, the Malaysian and the Bangladeshi, were arrested in Kota Baru and Klang respectively.

At a separate event, the IGP said Bukit Aman would always be on the alert with threats from the IS and other terror groups.

“We will not compromise when it comes to security. Every action will be taken to prevent bad things from happening in this country,” he said.

The IGP said terror groups, including the IS would not be allowed to gain a foothold in Malaysia, he added.

Asked whether any of the suspects had been planning to launch attacks in Malaysia, he said that was their main agenda.

Nabbed Terrorist Married 12 Times

KUALA LUMPUR: The British national nabbed along with four others for involvement in terrorism activities has a reputation of being a Casanova besides his militant tendencies.

The man has so far married 12 women, including five from Malaysia.

His other past and present wives are from the United Kingdom, Bosnia, Germany, Philippines and Indonesia.

“You could call him a Casanova terrorist,” a source told The Star.

“We have not come across a terrorist who has married so many women. He has been busy on the terror front but his love life is interesting as well.”

Apparently, his modus operandi has been to marry the women and divorce them after a few years.

“He is also suspected of duping the women into marriage for their money,” the source said.

It was learnt that a general manager of a bank was among his former Malaysian wives.

The man, who worked as a part-time English teacher in Penang, had been travelling in and out of Malaysia since 1998.

The authorities suspect that the Briton, who had been interacting with students, could be the head of a sleeper cell for the al-Qaeda in the country.

Source: The Star/Asia News Network

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‘Spin doctors’, public relations gurus in today’s political world – an uneasy with online news

Uneasy with the age of spin

The old guard feel uncomfortable with the instant availability of online news and views that might be critical of them or their allies.

UMNO is probably one of the largest political parties in the world relative to the country’s population – with three million members in a country of around 30 million, its members account for almost 10% of the population.

So it came as a surprise that the party’s secretary-general announced that media would not be invited to cover this year’s party general assembly unless they “behaved” themselves.

He has since rescinded this order, but the permanent gripe that the Umno establishment has against some online news portals is that the portals allegedly like to “spin” stories and statements made by senior party-members and ministers, much to the chagrin of the nation’s top leaders.

So what is “spin”?

Spin is a weapon generally employed on a daily basis by politicians, opinion-makers and large corporations with the help of public relations gurus (“spin doctors”) who put out the desired image or message in such a way that the client will be favourably received by the public.

Edward Bernays is called the “father of public relations” for his success at presenting smoking and drinking as acceptable social behaviour in the early part of the 20th century, and he was in fact a spin doctor par excellence who openly talked of manipulating the public mind.

Spin doctoring is readily apparent in the United States political scene where debates are held by competing presidential candidates: both sides will claim victory and their spin doctors will go full throttle to selectively present the respective candidate’s winning points.

It’s also spin if the desired result of the exercise is to paint a negative picture of one’s target; either way, spin is usually associated with deceptive or manipulative tactics, but this is not always the case.

Spin can be disingenuous but not necessarily false: selectively presenting facts and quotes that support one’s position is spin, and it is the same as putting large photographs of certain leaders on the front pages of national newspapers to project a positive image.

Everyone engages in spin – some crudely – while others do so with more finesse, but everyone is actively spinning these days.

My wife’s constant complaint is that Malaysiakini uses a picture of me showing me in an angry mood, gesticulating about something, which she feels does not truly represent my persona.

Here, Malaysiakini could either be unconcerned about how I look (and why should it be?) or it might want to portray me as an angry man without a cause. If it is the latter, then it’s spin.

That said, spin is less effective in the age of the Internet than it was in the old days when a political party had a monopoly over the media. Back then, it was an arduous task for dissenters to make themselves heard, simply because they had no platform to do so.

Now, in the era of social media, the old order feels uncomfortable with the instant availability of online news and views that might be critical of them or their allies.

The old guard do not know how to deal with this new phenomenon, which is why they complain incessantly about the Opposition’s “spin”.

The truth is that every political organisation, large or small, uses spin to maximise its impact on the voting public.

Spin is par for the course in today’s political world and it’s not something we should complain about.

If the level of news reporting and journalistic integrity has stooped too low – if fair reporting has suffered because journalists resort to unethical practices such as plagiarism or manufacturing stories – then the solution would be to set up a Press Council to guarantee that minimum standards of professional excellence are maintained.

News organisations that flout the rules of such a council could be fined, while other measures can be taken to improve news reporting – that is, positive measures – because the unending threats to sue newspapers and online portals for incorrect statements and negative reporting is a waste of the court’s time.

Also, banning newspapers and online media from attending any political assembly is not the answer.

Instead, politicians should learn to be a little thick-skinned: after all, it’s part of the business to be attacked and made fun of, and to be misquoted or selectively quoted in a deceptive way.

If we are going to sue and issue threats every time an opponent opens his or her mouth, no work of serving the people and formulating good policies will ever be done.

Our politicians will be quarrelling and threatening one another for every small mistake, deliberate or otherwise, and if this is allowed to continue, the public will be disenchanted even more by the lack of quality leadership in Malaysia.

A serious change in attitude – a paradigm shift, of sorts – is necessary on the part of our political leaders to avoid this endless bickering and name-calling.

Politicians should learn to regard their opponents as a vital and necessary part of the democratic system that they all claim to uphold, and they should learn to live in harmony with one another as far as possible so that real work can get done.

There is no point taking the hard line over trivialities unless we want to dispense with democracy altogether: running a democracy is never as easy or comfortable as ruling with an iron fist.

It’s so much easier to rule North Korea or Saudi Arabia if you are the top dog there, but if you want democracy to continue, then a little discomfort – a little spin here and there – is a necessary part of political life which really shouldn’t bother anyone too much.

By Zaid Ibrahim All kinds of everything The Star/Asia News Network

Former de facto Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim ( is now a legal consultant. The views expressed here are entirely his own

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Correcting DNA mistakes

Using the knowledge of how the cell repair systems work will open the door to more effective cancer treatments
UNDERSTANDING how our cells repair damaged DNA, a breakthrough which earned the Nobel Chemistry Prize recently, could make cancer treatment more effective, experts say.

By revealing how our cells automatically fix DNA mutations which can lead to illness, the discovery opened the door to significantly improving chemotherapy’s effectiveness against cancer, which kills some eight million people worldwide each year.

“You can use this knowledge to destroy cancer,” said Nora Goosen, a DNA repair expert at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

Chemotherapy attacks cancer cells by trying to scramble their genetic code and thus their ability to multiply, but cancer cells, just like healthy ones, do not give up without a fight.

he cell repair systems are going to try to undo the work of doctors by fixing the damage the doctors were trying to inflict,” said Terence Strick, a DNA repair researcher at the Jacques Monod Institute in Paris.

One solution would be to inhibit the ability of cancerous cells to self-mend.

“If you attack these repair mechanisms (in cancer cells) in combination with chemotherapy and other drugs … it (treatment) can be more effective,” Goosen said.

Sweden’s Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich of the United States and Turkish-American Aziz Sancar were awarded the top chemistry award for unravelling the process by which our cells repair mutations caused to DNA by the Sun or carcinogenic substances found in alcohol and cigarettes, for example.

Mistakes in DNA, the chemical code for making and sustaining life, can cause cells to malfunction, age prematurely, and become cancerous.

The vast majority of changes to our DNA are immediately corrected, but some accumulate and lead to cancer. Some people are more susceptible to cancer because their DNA repair response is faulty.

Ironically, the same repair mechanism identified by the Nobel laureates can also cause cancerous cells to resist the effects of cancer treatment.

Alan Worsley, a spokesman for the charity Cancer Research UK, said new drugs are being developed to fight the disease.

He cited the treatment olaparib, which stops cancer cells from fixing DNA damage. It was approved by the European Commission in December 2014 for use in Europe.

Alain Sarasin of France’s CNRS research institute highlighted the risks of interfering with DNA repair systems.

“We don’t yet know how to target tumour cells specifically. If we gave a patient a molecule which inhibits the self-repair mechanism of cancer cells, it may also inhibit the repair systems of other cells like white blood cells,” he said.

“If, one day, we have a molecule which reinforces the DNA repair and can be targeted to blood cells, for example, followed by chemotherapy after, this would allow us to increase the chemotherapy dosage without unintentionally killing blood cells.

“For now, we don’t know how to do that.” – AFP

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Penang deals with S’poreTemasek to build RM1.3bil Business Process Outsourcing Prime in Bayan Baru complex

Joining forces: Temasek Consumer & Real Estate head and Southeast Asia head David Heng (fourth right) exchanging the agreement documents with PDC general manager Datuk Rosli Jaafar. The event is witnessed by Lim (centre).

Penang Development Corporation (PDC) has inked a joint venture agreement with two Singapore-based companies to develop a RM1.3bil Business Process Outsourcing Prime (BPO-Prime) Complex in Bayan Baru.

The complex will be built on a 2.8ha of land where the PDC office is located currently.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who witnessed the agreement signing ceremony, said the collaboration with Temasek Holdings and Economic Development Innovations Singapore is a testimony of confidence and trust the international business community has in the future of Penang.

“BPO-Prime will represent the prime business hub in Malaysia’s Multimedia Super Corridor at Penang Cyber City 1 in Bayan Lepas with a gross developmental value of RM1.3bil and gross floor area of minimum RM1.6mil sq ft,” Lim said.

He added that the project would start in 2016 and was expected to finish by 2019.

Lim said BPO-Prime would be the catalyst for the Penang’s industrial transformation, such as creating a new cluster of economic development in BPO, Knowledge Process Outsourcing and Information Technology Outsourcing.

“It will also become the home to multinational companies and it is estimated to create 4,000 high-income and quality job opportunities.

“Its high value added ser-vices hub includes customer operations, data processing, back office administration, accounting, technical support, transcription, software development, IT consultancy and disaster recovery services,” he said.

Lim said BPO-Prime would ensure progress in economic vibrancy, social development, liveability and sustainability.

“The Shared Services Outsourcing (SSO) sector has achieved rapid growth over the years and the state’s SSO is providing more than 8,000 high-income jobs to locals as well as serving both regional and global markets,” he said. – By The Star

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American FBI’s China accusation spurred by finance, not a good idea to spy on friends!

On Thursday last week, the FBI released a film entitled The Company Man: Protecting America’s Secrets, which targets economic espionage. The 35-minute film features two Chinese economic spies who try to bribe a US employee with money, attempting to acquire insulation technology from the latter’s company. The two were later prosecuted and caught in the net of justice. According to media reports, the video has already been shown nearly 1,300 times at US enterprises.

An FBI official publicly voiced that “China is the most dominant threat we face from economic espionage … The Chinese government plays a significant role.”

The official also declared that economic espionage has caused losses of hundreds billions of dollars annually to the US economy.

How much is “hundreds of billions of dollars?” Say $300 billion, about 2 percent of US annual GDP.

Since the FBI believes that there has been a 53 percent surge in economic espionage in the US, and 95 percent of US companies suspect that China is the main culprit, does it infer that China has stolen 2 percent of US GDP?

Some people may ponder that given the Cold War is over, Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein were eradicated and the war on terror is seemingly not that urgent for the moment, and in light of US federal budget constraints, the FBI needs to find new strategic reasons for more funds. Therefore, the “position” of “Chinese economic spies” has been greatly elevated.

What the FBI has done is bound to injure Sino-US relations. But it is US society that will suffer the most. Many Americans will hence think that their economy is fine, their companies have no problems at all and the only issue is the threat from Chinese economic espionage.

It looks to them like Chinese intelligence services and civilian business spies are much more powerful than the FBI, CIA and other non-governmental intelligence forces combined. China is not capable in every category except for spy technology. This is the logic of the FBI

If we take a good look at China’s overall development in this changing world, you will see that one-third of global new technical patents are now created by Chinese companies every year. Innovation has also become China’s national slogan. China will eventually be able to challenge the West’s dominance in high technology.

China is well aware that it should learn from the West, especially the US, in terms of technology. But this is not stealing.

US universities are also attracting students from all over the world, yet this brings more benefits than losses to the nation due to the dissemination of knowledge.

Someone who always claims that his house was robbed and feels free to suspect his friend or neighbor is the thief is very annoying, and that is what the US is doing right now. The whole world knows that US intelligent agencies are the most notorious regarding this issue.

We hope that the often-silent Chinese intelligence services could expose some hard evidence of espionage by US spies, and make a spy movie featuring US espionage, providing it with a mirror to look at itself.- Global Times

Not a good idea to spy on friends

THERE’s been so much dramatic news these days – from Greece’s miseries to Iran, China from blowhard Donald Trump – that the shocking story of how America’s National Security Agency has been spying on German and French leadership has gone almost unnoticed.

Last year, it was revealed that the NSA had intercepted Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone. She is supposed to be one of Washington’s most important allies and the key power in Europe. There was quiet outrage in always subservient Germany, but no serious punitive action.

Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, was also bugged by American intelligence. Her predecessor, Luiz Lula da Silva, was also apparently bugged.

This year, came revelations that NSA and perhaps CIA had tapped the phones of France’s president, Francois Hollande, and his two predecessors, Nicholas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac. Hollande ate humble pie and could only summon some faint peeps of protest to Washington. Luckily for the US, Charles de Gaulle was not around. After the US tried to strong-arm France, “le Grand Charles” kicked the US and Nato out of France.

Last week, WikiLeaks revealed that the NSA had bugged the phone of Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, for over a decade. Imagine the uproar and cries “the Gestapo is back” if it were revealed that German intelligence had bugged the phones of President Barack Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry.

A lot of Germans were really angry that their nation was being treated by the Americans as a northern banana republic. Many recalled that in the bad old days of East Germany its intelligence agency, Stasi, monitored everyone’s communications under the direct supervision of KGB big brother at Moscow Centre.

The National Security Agency and CIA claim their electronic spying is only aimed at thwarting attacks by anti-American groups (aka “terrorism”). This claim, as shown by recent events, is untrue. One supposes the rational must be a twist on the old adage “keep your enemies close, but your friends even closer”.

Ironically, the political leaders listed above – save perhaps Brazil’s da Silva – are all notably pro-American and responsive to Washington’s demands.

Why would the US risk alienating and humiliating some of its closet allies?

One suspects the reason is sheer arrogance … and because US intelligence could do it. But must US intelligence really know what Mr Merkel is making Mrs Merkel for dinner?

Until WikiLeaks blew the whistle, some European leaders may have known they were being spied upon but chose to close their eyes and avoid making an issue. Raising a fuss would have forced them to take action against the mighty US.

Besides, British, Italian and French intelligence are widely believed to have bugged most communications since the 1950’s. But not, of course, the White House or Pentagon. The only nation believed to have gotten away with bugging the White House was Israel during the Clinton years. The Pentagon was bugged by a number of foreign nations, including Israel, China and Russia.

Humiliating Europe’s leaders in this fashion is a gift to the growing numbers of Europeans who believe their nations are being treated by the US as vassal states.

There is widespread belief in Western Europe that US strategic policy aims at preventing deeper integration of the EU and thwarting a common foreign policy or a powerful European military. Britain serves as a Trojan horse for America’s strategic interests in Europe.

Way back in the 1960’s, then German defence minister Franz Josef Strauss, an ardent proponent of a truly united Europe, thundered that Europeans would not play spearmen to America’s atomic knights. But, of course, that’s just what happened.

The US still runs and finances Nato in the same way the Soviet Union commanded the Warsaw Pact. Washington calls on Europe for troop contingents in its Middle East and south Asian colonial wars in the same way that the Persian Empire summoned its vassals to war.

Many Germans and French, both right and left, would like their leaders to react more forcefully to NSA’s ham-handed spying. However, Merkel and Hollande are both political jellyfish eager to evade any confrontation with Big Brother in Washington. Maybe he has too much dirt on them.

But a confrontation is inevitable one day if Europe is to regain its true independence that was lost after World War II.

By Eric S. Margolis who is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. Comments:

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The great technology transformation

AFTER a week in the Silicon Valley, California last month, I came to the conclusion that I am a dinosaur. The speed of change from technology has been so fast and so profound that we are lost in transition, translation and transformation.

The digital revolution is already upon us, but the baby boomer generation, to which I belong, is having difficulty understanding this because we still upload (read) on paper, whereas the millenials (those born between 1980 and 2000) upload information mostly on mobile phones, video and communicate through social media.

Demographics say a lot. At the turn of the 21st century, the baby boomers (born 1946-1964) were half the work force, but today in the United States, millenials and Gen X (born 1965-1979) are roughly one-third each. The baby boomers may own most of the retirement funds and wealth, but the new wealth is being created rapidly by the younger generations.

A simple set of statistics says it all. The Forbes top five US companies by revenue are Walmart, Exxon, Chevron, Berkshire Hathaway and Apple. Walmart employs over 2.1 million people, with revenue just under US$485bil, but profits of US$16bil with market capitalisation of US$265bil. Apple, with only 80,000 employees, had double Walmart profits of US$39bil and a market capitalisation of US$725bil, larger than Walmart and Exxon put together. Twitter, with only 3,638 employees or less than 0.2% of Walmart workforce, is valued at 9.2% of Walmart. Facebook, with only 9,200 employees but 1.44 billion users, is valued at 86% of Walmart.

In fact, if it wasn’t for the fact that Silicon Valley is booming in terms of wealth creation, California would be suffering from the economic effects of the worst drought in years. But at US$2.3 trillion, California is growing at 2.8% per annum, faster than US real gross domestic product growth of 2.2% in 2014. The Western Pacific states of Oregon and Washington are growing faster at 3.6% and 3% respectively, thanks to growing trade and services from the boom in technology.

Two things that stand out in the Digital Disruption – speed and scale. The speed and scale of the digital transformation is so fast and so wide and deep that we are all having problems valuing what it means – which is why we have a tech bubble in the making.

It is quite normal for us to accept that the Silicon Valley is the world leader in digital change, but what was eye-opening as I dug into the data is that the next waves are already happening in China and India. This has mind-boggling implications on a geo-political basis, especially for smaller economies, such as Malaysia, Hong Kong or Thailand.

What struck me from delving into the pattern of growth in the Internet Revolution is the speed and scale of change in China and India. Who would have expected even five years ago that four out of the top 15 global public Internet companies, ranked by market capitalisation would be Chinese (Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu and with a combined value of US$542bil or 22.4% of the total market valuation of US$2.4 trillion of these 15 companies as of May, 2105.

China Internet

Scale and speed

The reason for this valuation is scale and speed of the Chinese transformation, already overtaking the world leader, the United States. The rate of Internet penetration is over 80% for the United States, only 40+% in China and 20+% in India. But China already has more Internet users (618 million), double the US population and its growth in smartphones is double (21%) that of the United States (9%).

Although incomes in China and India are far lower than the United States, Chinese and Indian millenials (for that matter, millenials in all emerging markets) are beginning to spend more time on their smartphones than the advanced countries.

There are two implications from this broad trend, which the Chinese Internet platforms like Alibaba and Tencent are beginning to exploit.

The first is the ease and convenience of buying, selling and paying using the smartphone – an all service tool. Partly because of regulation, the US leaders such as eBay, Amazon and Facebook are still in their core areas of strength, but Alibaba and WeChat (part of Tencent) have developed eco-systems that are simultaneously social networks, chatrooms, trading and investing platforms combined.

When I lost my Blackberry, MacBook and camera recently in Latin America, I was staggered that using WeChat on iPhone, I could go on video and instant chat with friends across half the world for free. My only constraint was the battery on my iPhone and that I had not set up to get funds transfer in case of need.

The second implication is that traditional service providers are way behind in this technology. My credit card companies are still on outdated phone-banking, which meant that in order to report lost cards, I was frantically trying to Press one, Press two and Press self-destruct! These companies are at least two generations behind in customer service technology.

Internet Revolution

My conclusion from this survey of the Internet Revolution is that the disruption from technology on conventional businesses is yet incomplete. In the 1990s, the Internet changed the music, photography, book sales and video rental business. Today, we book airline and hotel travel on the web.

But with the arrival of the iPad and iPhone, healthcare, finance, investing, education and social communications are being combined into one gadget (the mobile phone) to do what we have to.

This disruption is happening very fast in China and India, because these late-comers have no pre-conceived legacy ideas on what cannot be done with technology.

If China is currently going through its tech bubble, watch out for the next tech bubble in India.

Those who think only in terms of risks think that bubbles are to be feared. I have come to realise that the animal spirits in us change the game through excesses. But those who learn from their mistakes will create the new.

Silicon Valley is not a place but a mindset – nothing ventured, nothing gained. That mindset is truly the New Digital Transformation.

Watch this space in Asia.

Andrew Sheng comments on global trends from an Asian angle


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