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global_futures 07/99

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06.07.1999 · Research Group on the Global Future

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Research Group on the Global Future
Center for Applied Policy Research (CAP)
Munich, Germany

"Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinion in good men is but knowledge in the making."

John Milton, Areopagitica, 1644

(1) Life Sciences
(2) Major E-commerce Study
(3) Structure of Conflicts in the 21st Century
(4) Billion-Dollar Opportunity
(5) Global Biodiversity Information Facility
(6) Noted in Passing



Everything you wanted to know about life sciences (in German), but were not able to find

This is the new hot spot for those who want to dig into the variety of issues that add up to the biotech revolution. Germany's first online-magazine on life sciences is a perfect tour d'horizon. It offers the latest news items on scientific research as well as background stories on topics such as cloning or genetic germline enginnering. There is also an interesting section on consumer advises plus information on all European biotech companies which have gone public.

Other interesting websites from the biotech realm:

The International Food Policy Research Institute:

Everything on the world food situation: recent developments, emerging issues and long term prospects. There is a strong focus on identifying and analyzing policies for meeting the food needs of developing countries. Working areas cover issues such as water resource allocation, strategies for poverty allocation or sustainable development of less-favored lands.

BioTrack Online - the website of the OECD's programme on harmonizing regulatory oversight in biotechnology:

BioTrack Online is an excellent source of research on regulatory issues related to the products of modern biotechnology. You will find documents that deal with the international harmonization of regulatory oversight in biotechnology which aims to ensure that environmental health and safety aspects are properly evaluated. There is also a good selection of database information, for example a database of all field trials of genetically modified organisms which have taken place in OECD member countries.



The United States Department of Commerce released its second major study on the new economy, The Emerging Digital Economy 2. The report captures the rapidly evolving state of electronic commerce and the information technology sector and offers facts and figures about the digital revolution.

Key findings:

Growth in the available measures of e-commerce is outpacing last year's most optimistic projections. As a share of the retail portion of the economy, however, e-commerce remains quite small -- less than 1 percent.

IT-producing industries (i.e., producers of computer and communications hardware, software, and services) that enable e-commerce play a strategic role in the growth process. Between 1995 and 1998, these IT-producers, while accounting for only about 8 percent of U.S. GDP, contributed on average 35 percent of the nation's real economic growth.

In 1996 and 1997 (the last years for which detailed data are available), falling prices in IT-producing industries brought down overall inflation by an average 0.7 percentage points, contributing to the remarkable ability of the U.S. economy to control inflation and keep interest rates low in a period of historically low unemployment.

By 2006, almost half of the U. S. workforce will be employed by industries that are either major producers or intensive users of information technology products and services. Innovation has increased demand for high paid, "core IT workers" (e.g., computer scientists, engineers), created new IT occupations, changed skill requirements for some non-IT occupations, and raised minimum skill requirements for many other jobs. Wage gaps between workers in IT industries and all other workers continue to widen.




At the end of the 20th century, world politics are undergoing an essential change. New constellations of conflict are arising, and old conflicts are breaking out again. The dynamic transformation in the international system of the 21st century, which is pushing cooperative and integrative structures (as in Europe and Latin America) as well as confrontation (in the Middle East) is decisive for the emergence of future conflicts.

The German Armed Services have recently published a major study on these future dynamics:

Hans Frank Seller, Die neue Dynamik der weltpolitischen Strukturen und Prozesse an der Schwelle zum 21. Jahrhundert, in Amt fuer Studien und Uebungen der Bundeswehr. Berichte aus der Grundlagenarbeit, Recht/ Politik Ausgabe 39, Mai 1999. Order from the Amt fuer Studien und Uebungen der Bundeswehr, Schaumburgweg 3, 51545 Waldbroel (Fax: +49 (0)2291 2050 1281).



Only 37 percent of insurance companies see the internet as central to their business strategy, according to a report by the consulting firm Booz-Allen & Hamilton. (http://www.bah.com)

Michael Pollack, a Booz·Allen principal who worked on the study, said that just one percent of current insurance Web sites and fewer than 30% percent of those planned for the year 2000 will allow users to purchase insurance policies. Most insurance companies view the internet as an extension of current marketing strategies translated to a new medium. Thus, they risk losing ground in the electronic insurance market, particularly to non-traditional competitors that already offer instant quotes and comparison policy shopping online.

The Booz·Allen analysis indicates that insurance companies' internet ambivalence results in hesitation to link their corporate strategy with their online strategy. In the electronic marketplace, insurance companies already lag other industries, as well as their competitors in financial services.

Nearly all participants said they do not expect the internet to alter their business practices materially or immediately, nor affect the industry's cost structure. Overall, respondents ranked selling products directly to consumers as the "least important goal" for their sites. Booz Allen, by contrast, believes that the internet could cut costs across the insurance value chain by more than 60%, with the most dramatic savings in distribution and customer service.

To the Research Group on the Global Future, this looks like a billion dollar opportunity waiting for someone to pick up and run with. Who wants to be the Amazon or the E*Trade of insurance?



As the magazine Nature (http://www.nature.com) reports, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD, http://www.oecd.org) intends to create the world's largest biodiversity databank. The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) will be a multimillion dollar project to connect existing databases on biodiversity and serve as a one-stop shop on the topic. One of the GBIF's main tasks will be to create a comprehensive list of species names, eliminating confusion and duplication that sometimes hinder protection of endangered species. According to Nature, the GBIF "will contain scores of databases ... plus a catalogue of names of known organisms, digitalization of natural history data, literature resources, and a bank dedicated to the discovery of new species." The project will fundamentally change the study of biodiversity.



A new German site on political science (http://www.polibrain.de) is worth a glance. They're off to a good start collecting resources and inquiring about the effects of the web and the internet on politics and political science.



global_futures also offers an interactive forum. Recommendations ,letters, and tips are welcomed by the editors, particularly on the topics of the digital future, biotechnology, sustainability and the new economy. Send all feedback to fgz@lrz.uni-muenchen.de.



Douglas Merrill, Patrick Meyer, Juergen Turek, Markus Vorbeck
Research Group on the Global Future
Center for Applied Policy Research
Geschwister Scholl Institute
Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich