A disproportionately large percentage of microchips used around the world are built in Taiwan, thus putting any risks to Taiwan’s independence a risk to all industries with microchip applications everywhere.
In the wake of the unprecedented global pandemic, 2021 was a golden year for tech as it saw a vast increase in usage of online services and revenue for tech companies. As the world went back to relative normalcy in 2022, the spike in online services declined. New vaccines and medical research helped return the world to a state comparable to pre-pandemic living. In 2022, technology has made rapid strides, from healthcare to space technology and digital currencies, among others. Separately, rare earth minerals continue to be explored and used in new devices all around the world. Moreover, defence technology has shown itself to be pivotal to modern conflicts. This has been the year of new military tech in warfare—from drones to cyberwarfare—which have allowed even smaller countries to withstand overwhelming conventional forces.
Facebook rebranded to Meta with a new focus and vigour on augmented reality and virtual reality. Facebook previously acquired Oculus to enter the virtual reality market. It has now rebranded and shifted itself altogether towards its vision for an immersive, 3D internet of the future. Meta’s Reality Labs division produces headsets which can be worn to enter its new creation of the “Metaverse”. The metaverse is supposed to be an environment where users can play games, set up business, hold meetings together, communicate and build a whole new, parallel virtual existence. It will also allow businesses to build and expand into a new virtual environment where they can reach new potential buyers and subscribers for their online and offline products.
Cryptocurrencies have seen a roller-coaster ride in recent years, with 2022 witnessing intense scrutiny and regulation coming its way from governments around the world. High levels of market volatility, increasing cases of fraud and the use of cryptocurrencies for questionable and activities have forced governments to regulate them more intensely. Recent months have also seen a steep rise in interest by governments and central banks around the world in creating their own digital currencies. These are known as Central Bank Digital Currencies or CBDCs. They’re issued by the monetary authority of a country—the RBI, the Federal Reserve or others. Countries from China, Sweden, the US, Singapore and India, among others, are at various stages of experimentation and implementation of a CBDC. India recently issued its own e-rupee.
5G was recently rolled out in India putting us in a small club of countries that include the US, China and South Korea among others that also own the technology. 5G is faster than preceding telecommunications technologies by up to ten times. This new superfast tech is a disruptor and a game changer for several industries. Especially in case of education which can now reach to rural parts of the country through online means. It’ll also allow greater connectivity and communication, which in turn will reduce inefficiencies and increase national income in many sectors.
The push for transition to cleaner, greener and more sustainable forms of energy has continued unabated in 2022. The move towards renewables is also combined with a shift in transportation to electric vehicles (EVs). Although EVs continue to remain prohibitively expensive for most buyers, their increasing awareness and adoption is going to continue in 2023. There is growing consumer interest in adopting cleaner forms of transport. As the US carmaker Tesla paves the way for more adoption, EVs will continue to gain in recognition and attraction in the next year. In addition, green hydrogen has had a fledgling start in 2022. India’s first Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV), a green hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirai was first brought on the road this year. Green hydrogen will increasingly come in focus and attention in 2023 as it is by far one of the cleanest fuels on offer. With the potential to overhaul the sustainable transport sector, this technology holds much promise. With the promises of sustainability made at COP27 this year in Egypt, the transition to sustainable transport will only accelerate.
Space research has seen enthusiastic participation from India, China and the US this year. India launched its first privately built rocket to space by a Hyderabad-based startup. The Indian Space Research Organisaton (ISRO) also launched and placed 36 communications satellites of a London-based organisation. The US has also met a remarkable milestone as NASA through its Artemis space mission has restarted its lunar missions after decades. It is aiming to continue expanding its lunar missions in coming decades. China has just completed construction of its space station in 2022 recently and has placed huge emphasis for investment into space technology in recent years to develop exploration and defence capabilities.
China’s assertiveness towards Taiwan has brought to light the vital role that Taiwan plays in the global chip manufacturing supply chain. A disproportionately large percentage of microchips used around the world are built in Taiwan, thus putting any risks to Taiwan’s independence a risk to all industries with microchip applications everywhere. This has forced some countries to consider building indigenous chip manufacturing. However, the cutting-edge chip-building technology is not possible to be replaced with even a few years of investment; it requires long term investments over decades. This has huge ramifications not just for global security but also for technology.
2022 has continued the trend of rising litigation and regulation against Big Tech. Meta, Google, Apple and others have come under increasing scrutiny from governments around the world. They’ve been targeted for a multitude of factors from anti-trust to abusing their monopoly position in some jurisdictions to misuse of data entrusted by users among other reasons. Data privacy forms a central thorn for governments, Big Tech and citizens to negotiate around. The effect of Big Tech on elections, on democracy and on the social discourse has also been increasingly realised, felt and regulated. This trend of understanding the large-scale effects of Big Tech on society and controlling its negative externalities is likely to continue going into 2023.
2023 will continue to see many of these same trends in technology accelerate for the better. Progress in artificial intelligence (AI) will help across sectors from education to better healthcare, space research, building more efficient manufacturing processes and many more. Building ethical frameworks within which AI machines operate is a fundamental task for us in the process. The trend towards sustainable and efficient transport will continue to provide us with cleaner and greener fuels and vehicles. The huge impact of transport on the environment will be minimised in the process. The vast unexplored frontier of space will continue to be explored, potentially expanding our understanding of the cosmos and our place in the universe. 2023 and coming years bring many exciting developments and have much to look forward to.
Rajesh Mehta is a leading international affairs expert. Krishanu Ranwan is a global relations consultant.