The rise of Generation C: Implications for the world of 2020

Executive summary

In the course of the next 10 years, a new generation — Generation C — will emerge. Born after 1990, these “digital natives,” just now beginning to attend university and enter the workforce, will transform the world as we know it. Their interests will help drive massive change in how people around the world socialize, work, and live their passions — and in the information and communication technologies they use to do so.

As they grow up, this highly connected generation will live “online” most of their waking hours, comfortably participate in social networks with several hundred or more contacts, generate and consume vast amounts of formerly private information, and carry with them a sophisticated “personal cloud” that identifies them in the converged online and offline worlds.

As a consequence, this generation will expect fast, reliable connectivity through which they will create direct commercial links with a multitude of online business partners — today we call them application players. And the Internet will evolve into a largely “centerless” cloud with no obvious control points.

In the face of declining revenues from traditional services, the challenge for the communication and technology industries will be to abandon successful but outlived business models and refocus on what it takes to thrive in the Generation C environment. This shouldn’t be taken as bad news, however; the rise of ubiquitous broadband, and of newly connected populations from emerging economies, will enable operators to capitalize on a vast new array of services. The “smart pipe,” an intelligent communication infrastructure, will be at the heart of many new value pools in industries as diverse as healthcare, energy, transportation, and media. Communication and technology players are well positioned to jump on the bandwagon today to help shape the future of these industries — and to capture significant new revenues as the industries change and grow.


The advent of Generation C and its related behavior will drive fundamental change in most industries — and create substantial opportunities and threats for all involved. It is notoriously difficult to project the future; still, in Exhibit 5, we offer, in graphic form, a possible chronology of the next 10 years. We see a series of “eras” triggered by the sequential rise of critical new technologies. The Era of the Smart Cloud, for instance, will enable significant portions of the Generation C lifestyle in the coming years, to be succeeded by the Era of the Sensor Economy, which the cloud will help trigger. At the bottom is a series of specific events keyed to and dependent on the arrival of the various eras; thus the Era of the Internet of Things will enable auto manufacturers to build cars with full machine-to-machine connectivity.

Timeline of events for the coming decade

By 2020, we will be living in a different world indeed. Our predictions should not be seen as inevitable. Nevertheless, we believe this is the shape of things to come. The general outlines, and a great deal of the particulars, are clear. As such, it is incumbent on the technology and communication industries to prepare to help lead us into this world, and to benefit from the technological, social, and cultural changes that will take place.

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