It’s a troublesome world on the market for small nations. Expertise is the long run, everybody is aware of that; however how do you declare your share of that future while you’re competing with America, China, the EU, and India?
How do you construct a thriving ecosystem of tech wealth and tech training — profitable worldwide companies whose alumni discovered and put money into burgeoning startups — while you face the triple threats of a small inhabitants, restricted capital, and a possible mind drain? Even nations as rich and profitable as my homeland Canada typically wrestle with this.
So think about what it’s like for, say, Armenia, from which I write, a former Soviet republic turned tiny nation of three million, sandwiched between unfriendly neighbors within the Caucasus Mountains. I’m right here as a result of the Armenian authorities is, at apparent expense1, internet hosting one of many world’s seemingly numerous / infinite Main Tech Conferences, this time the World Congress of Info Expertise, presumably within the hopes of garnering worldwide consideration for — and funding in — Armenia’s tech sector.
This may increasingly appear quixotic. Armenia styles itself as “the Silicon Valley of the previous Soviet Union,” and its tech sector is profitable sufficient to have performed a prominent role in final yr’s ‘velvet revolution.’ But it surely’s nonetheless a rustic of three million in a comparatively obscure nook of the world. Nonetheless, Armenia has an enchanting secret weapon — its diaspora.
Because of their homeland’s troubled 20th-century history, many extra Armenians reside scattered world wide than in Armenia correct, together with, most famously, tons of of hundreds in Los Angeles. It’s “one of the largest and most sophisticated diasporas in the world.” Clearly there’s cultural drift — however on the identical time, I’m repeatedly assured it’s a uncommon Armenian who doesn’t have a distant buddy or relative in L.A. and/or Moscow.
The results of this unusually massive and loose-knit diasporal internet are important. It leads, generally straight, typically not directly, to American shoppers, German universities, and Russian companions; to worldwide connections to venture capitalists and startup incubators; to brain gain in addition to drain. It means Armenia isn’t only a landlocked nation of three million, however the beating cultural coronary heart of ten million, inadvertently strategically scattered throughout the globe. That’s a far, far stronger place.
I’ve argued before that as expertise shortens and tightens the bonds between distributed communities, they’ll develop extra important, culturally, financially, and ultimately politically. (And naturally tech additionally makes whole sub-industries even doable; one in every of WCIT’s sponsors here’s a slick and fast-growing crowdfunding marketing company, not precisely a conventional power of the previous Soviet bloc.) The Armenian diaspora is nearly a pure experiment testing this concept.
This pure experiment will check whether or not this secret weapon will assist Armenia proceed to punch additional and additional above its weight in expertise, tourism, and different diaspora-enhanced fields. If that occurs, and I anticipate it to, will probably be particularly fascinating to see which different distributed communities observe in its wake … and whether or not these can be affiliated with any nation-state in any respect.
1Together with paying the journey prices in your correspondent. Assume unconscious bias accordingly.