On the last 24th – 25th May 2016, myForesight® was honoured to be present at the inaugural summit, and deliver the opening keynote. Shared here is the keynote address by Rushdi Abdul Rahim, Director of myForesight® during the summit.
Highest gratitude to UNDP and the government of Sri Lanka for the invitation. #2030 Now: Foresight and Innovations Summit for Sustainable Human Development is a significant platform to continuously engage with each other whether in forums, seminars, conferences and meetings with the same vision of promoting and strengthening foresight and innovation for the global community.
The focus of this summit to look into the 2030 Now: Foresight and Innovations sustainable human development is most timely. On 1st January 2016, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) the officially came into force. While the SDGs are not legally binding, governments are expected to take ownership and establish national frameworks for the achievement of the 17 Goals.
In Malaysia, these SDGs are embedded into the national development plans – having discourse about it at every level, translating it into actionable plans and initiatives.
The world continues to change at an accelerated rate. At this years’ World Economic Forum, the participants are talking about the 4th Industrial Revolution, what it means and how to responds. This revolution will disrupt almost every industry in every country. The breadth and depth of these changes will transform of entire systems of production, management, and governance.
Therefore, those who can best anticipate, plan and respond to these changes are those most likely to succeed. Hence the need for foresight. Foresight is nothing new to the developed nations. Countries such as Denmark, UK, Japan & South Korea has long since embarked on foresight initiatives. It allows for a much effective long term planning and has enable these countries to capitalise on opportunities.
That is why nowadays the interest in foresight is on the rise. Especially in developing nations, in trying to build capacity in undertaking foresight – to build a more resilient long term plan. Trying to embark on transformation and innovation.
During the past few months, I have been invited to a few countries to talk and discuss on foresight.
What makes foresight so compelling?
Foresight first and foremost involves the change of mind-set. Thinking about the future – Possible futures, alternative futures. Then it is about participatory engagement which what this summit is all about. Then it is about the process and methods that allows both of the former to take place.
Foresight is a provocateur for innovation. It gives insights into potential futures, alternative futures. Futures that we want, futures that we need and futures that we would want to avoid – the disowned future. In understanding these futures allows us to identify opportunities, risk and threats.
Therefore allowing us to innovate, capitalizing on the opportunities, minimizing the risk and nullify the threats. I think it is very important look, to understand and explore the alternative futures that is available to us. We need to differentiate this alternative futures – the needs and wants. This will allow us to prioritise. For the futures that we want would be very much different from the futures that we need.
Though I am often told that the future that we want would not be different than the one we need. I beg to differ. I have always liked to give this example – I need a car, but I wanted a Jaguar though perhaps a Suzuki will suffice.
Therefore the future that we want would be a target, a vision of the future that we aspire. Whereas the future we need will be – dare to say – is the minimum state of positive development that we want for ourselves, taking into consideration assessment of our current state.
For our disowned future, this something we definitely would want to avoid. Therefore we will be building strategy and action plan to ensure that this future will not happen. Looking at this future also allow us to build contingency plan should this future starts to emerge. By anticipating this future could happen, it will enable us to react faster and better.
Allow me to share to you an image of the future that Malaysia hopes to achieve. Vision 2020 has been part of the Malaysian consciousness for more than two decades. In 1991, when the then Prime Minister issued the challenge to make Malaysia a fully developed country by 2020, it was a distant goal that few could visualise. But 2020 is now only four years away.
We have embed this into the National Development Plans, looking long-term. One of the key to this vision is the human development. In summary we envisioned that by 2020, Malaysians will be displaying 9 characteristics – 9 trades that will serve the country well.
We want Malaysians that is united, confidence, mature, ethical, tolerant, progressive, caring, economically just and prosperous. This vision is then complemented with the New Economic Model – that puts the citizens’ quality of life as a main agenda – with high income, inclusivity and sustainability as the goals. Malaysia wants a gross national income (GNI) per capita of USD 15000 by 2020, enabling all communities to benefit from the wealth of the country and ensuring we meet the needs of the present without compromising future generations.
Malaysia also embarked on a National transformation programme to ensure the vision will be achieved. 1) Was the economic Transformation Programme, where priorities were given to 12 key economic areas, 2) A Government
Transformation Programme focusing on key areas of concern of the citizens.
Going by the principal economic yardstick of, achieving high-income nation status by 2020 seems within reach. Malaysia’s poverty rate is now less than 1%, an indication that we’re trying to be as inclusive as possible.
However, a country cannot rise purely by working the levers of its capital economy. The government itself points out that growth is not measured by economic success alone. It is the wellbeing of the people, and a commitment to inclusive and sustainable growth, are necessary hallmarks of an advanced nation. This explains the theme of our current 5 year development plan: Anchoring growth on people. This means that the plan was formulated with the people as the centrepiece of all development efforts.
Hopefully the Malaysian who is born today and in the years to come will be the last generation of citizens who will be living in a country that is called ‘developing’.
Imagine the future
In my experience, I have yet to meet anybody who does not have any opinion about the future. Everybody seems to have a vision of or a description of the future. Perhaps you need to pool this descriptions and create a common vision for Sri Lanka. It is not hard to imagine this future.
Albert Einstein once said that “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand”.
Everybody seems to have a vision of or a description of the future. It is not hard to imagine this future. By exploring alternative futures, doing so in a structured, open and collaborative way, we will be able to create a better and more robust future. Focusing only the challenges of the present may seem imperative, especially when those challenges are massive and frightening. But without a sense of what’s next, a capacity for understanding connections and horizons, and a vision of what kind of world we want, our efforts to deal with today’s problems with inevitably leave us weakened, vulnerable, and blind to challenges to come.
Therefore the public sector should embrace foresight and futures thinking in policy development. It helps to encourage innovation, strategic evaluation and the proactive shaping of the future, rather than making predictions based on extrapolation of current trends or frequency of similar past events. Strategic foresight helps policymakers improve the effectiveness of governments by identifying opportunities and threats that may arise over the coming years and decades, and if done well, create possible strategies to deal with them.
Before I end, I once again would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the organiser for the invitation to deliver the opening keynote and hope all of you will fully utilise this Summit by exchanging views, sharing knowledge and experiences. Let us continue to engage with each other whether in forums, seminars, conferences and meetings with the same vision of promoting and strengthening foresight and innovation for the global community.
Thank You for the opportunity to be part of this summit!