Is the global tech balance moving from West to East?

Alibaba’s IPO in September 2014 was another sign of the growing shifting of the balance of the tech superpowers to the East. The West will certainly influence the majority of digital trends for years to come, but there is a feeling some trust has been lost in Western companies across the globe. When sell businesses begin to work with Asian financiers and tech firms en masse, that will be the biggest sign of this power swing. However, it is certainly a worrying time for US businesses when some consider Chinese tech companies more trustworthy.

The era of global dominance of Western multinational information and communications technology (ICT) brands, such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft, in everything spanning from cloud computing to servers has taken a hit following revelations the companies cooperated with the US National Security Agency in the secret data-collection PRISM programme in 2013. Data-conscious end-users and client businesses have begun to evaluate their exposure to US espionage.

US tech giants have been the spearhead of growing telecom consumption, especially through social networks Facebook and LinkedIn, email services from Google and Yahoo, to hardware from Apple and software from Microsoft. However, Chinese ICT firms, which were ironically condemned by the US authorities for furthering Chinese intelligence interests in early 2013, are making rapid headway on the global stage, while South Korean, Russian and other emerging technology brands are increasingly challenging the status quo. The public exposure of US state access to private user data will only serve to push more consumers to non-US brands, while emerging market start-ups will have the confidence to challenge the tarnished global giants.

On the back of the PRISM revelations, the lucrative Western European market is likely to turn to alternative providers for its cloud solutions, especially from Asia. Meanwhile, in markets where Western social media brands lag behind domestic social networking leaders, such as in China and Russia, the gap is likely to expand further.

Although the loss of credibility for Western tech majors will likely damage the utopian image of Silicon Valley innovation, the shifting of the private-public information-sharing debate into the mass media will help define this uneasy relationship, potentially providing clear consumer privacy regulations in segments such as cloud and social media. The global businesses environment, which continues to be held back by IT-related data security concerns, would certainly benefit. 

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