We live in extraordinary times. It has never been easier to communicate, network, and collaborate with anyone on any subject any time. What’s more, customers now have access to companies in ways that would not have been imaginable even a few years ago.
Information, the fuel of a thriving civilization, is becoming more ubiquitous every day. The Web has become a medium in which information is shared and leveraged in almost real time.
However, in this time of information prosperity, we also face immense social and business challenges globally. Solutions to complex problems like health care and risk management in the post-Great Recession are needed.
Indeed, the need for collaboration among risk professionals—including actuaries, risk managers, their support staff, and the entities with which they interact—has never been greater.
Fortunately, our technological toolbox has never been larger, and, at the same time, lighter. Web 2.0 technologies like wikis, blogs, and social media (to name only a few) are becoming mainstream for good reason: They allow people to leverage existing information to find solutions quickly and inexpensively. “Search costs” are evaporating since more and more information is only a seconds-long search away. In essence, we are able to spending less time looking and more time doing.
How did we get to 2.0?
In the 1990s, the Web became an integral part of our lives. This initial era, which spanned the 1990s through early 2000s is often referred to as “Web 1.0.” At the 2009 Society of Actuaries Annual Meeting, I spoke briefly about the meaning of Web 2.0. In doing so, I related the Web to physical computer media, like CDs: Web 1.0 was the “read only” version of the Internet; Web 2.0 is the read/write version.
In 1.0, most users were able to access content on static web pages but few were savvy enough to build their own sites. The flow of information was not very dynamic, and the source of information was controlled by a relatively small portion of the population−the larger news organizations and entertainment outlets (not unlike the traditional distribution of media by cable and radio).
It is largely agreed that the “Web 2.0” era began in 2004. Now, we can not only access information, it has never been easier to contribute information. And with every bit of information we contribute—whether it is a tweet on Twitter, a status update on Facebook, a blog post, or even a public wiki entry—we shape and define the Web ourselves.
Insurers and other entities in industries predicated on the assessment and redistribution of risk are only now beginning to take a hard look at how these technologies may aid marketing efforts as well as add value in other areas of the enterprise. I would like to aid in this effort by using this blog to openly catalog my own research.
I plan to
- Define “Web 2.0” jargon and platforms in understandable terms,
- Report and discuss examples of how companies and individuals associated with “risk industries” apply collaborative and social technologies in their work,
- Offer my own thoughts and visions as to how these technologies can and should be used both now and in the future, and
- Point out the downsides and risks of Web 2.0 technologies.
I look forward to reading comments and learning from the readers of this blog. Both praise and criticism are equally welcome.