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More IoT, Less Sports

Germany-Brazil Should Help Us Re-Focus on What's Important

Technology in general and the Internet of Things in particular has the potential to drive vast improvements in the lives of people worldwide. In addition to its potential to create a renaissance in manufacturing, its potential to make the globe smarter about energy use could help eliminate poverty and save humans from destroying ourselves.

Pretty big objectives, but we have to believe they're achievable. It is in this spirit that we approach the upcoming @ThingsExpo Nov 4-6 in Santa Clara, co-located with @CloudExpo. I'm honored to serve as Conference Chair for both events.

Not For The Squeamish
But I really wanted to talk about sports today, especially futbol as we've all agreed to call it. The recent Germany-Brazil debacle in the World Cup may bring down the Brazilian government, while giving Die Mannschaft fans moments from which only the least squeamish could take any schadenfreude.

The political context in Brazil is that the nation's government committed $12 billion to prepare for the World Cup. This sum would compare to about $80 billion in the US, as a percentage of the economy. Brazil's investment also comes in a country with an average per-person income less than one-fourth of the US, and a very high level of income disparity.

Speaking of that $80 billion, that number is easily around the amount that the US has invested in its professional sports stadiums over the past decade. It seems no modern MLB or NFL city is complete without a shiny new billion-dollar stadium.

More Excess
We see similar excess in Vladimir Putin's astonishing $50 billion investment in the recent Sochi Winter Olympics—a sum that was more than 6X higher than the previous record. Television rights for sporting events major and minor are as high as they've ever been, and a fan intensity nearing insanity during the World Cup was recently seen from Ghana to Costa Rica, from England to Japan.

As one who often feels physically ill after a Green Bay Packers loss, I get the idea of metaphorically living and dying over the fate of my athletic heroes. But it's time for sports fans of the world to ease off a bit. It's time to stop the over-reactions.

Perhaps Germany and Brazil helped put an end to World Cup and other sports-related mania, or at least gave a lot of people pause for reflection.

Hard Reality
Because here's the reality: turning to the research we've been doing at the Tau Institute for the past few years, we find a very large number of underdeveloped, underlying ICT infrastructures. Brazil is a prime member of this laggards' club, ranking 56th out of the 102 nations we survey, this despite its status as a “BRIC country” investment magnet.

Within Latin America, it trails Chile, Uruguay, and Costa Rica. And yes, those nations are mad about futbol, too, but they didn't just spend billions of dollars to host the World Cup.

To be fair, there are several countries in Latin America that trail Brazil badly, Argentina, Peru and Mexico most prominent among them.

Meanwhile, in Europe, Germany does quite well and Russia does not. Russia is a global laggard, ranking 80th overall and at the very bottom of the 33 European countries we survey. But even Germany could do better, as it trails seven European nations, most prominently the Netherlands.

Be Rational
My goal here is not to bash sports and the expenses lavished upon them, but to get back to rational thinking about improving our societies through the smart use of technology.

If Brazil's World Cup disaster leads to a new president in the upcoming election, our hope is that it leads to a government that can focus to some degree on technology and its potential. The same should be said for all nations of the world, though.

The average per-person income among the 7 billion people on earth is roughly the same as that of Jamaica. Our research is focused on examining how we humans can collectively do better.

Now, if only the Packers can improve their defense and special teams this season, I'll be a lot happier on any given Sunday.

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More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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