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2013: The year that was

2013 has been described as the turning point when the world moved into a technology-dependent society. Teenagers today are global citizens, establishing contacts all over the world with “friends” they may never physically meet, through social media. No one who has access to the Internet need live in isolation or have knowledge limited to their own locality. Twitter, which provides information in real time, already has 230 million users.

Some old ideas have come back in vogue. Microcredit, which was first introduced in Bangladesh to provide loans for small businessmen and farmers who did not qualify for bank loans, has now moved to America, bringing small entrepreneurs into the mainstream of economic life. The engine of growth in the United States today is small businesses and start-ups, which have proved to have more to do with lifting the economy and providing employment than large corporate entities.

In China, the goal in 2013 was mass education. A child of a poor family in China now has a better chance to get an education than a child in any other country in the world. Armed with an education, Chinese citizens are being judged not by what they know but by what they do with what they know.

In 2013, the world saw the rise of “citizen journalists.” Anyone with access to the Internet can report on events as they happen in real time, and editorialize on the event by contributing their own opinion. Individuals communicate, not only across state and regional boundaries, but across the world. This global discourse makes the entire world better informed, and puts it on the road toward a more egalitarian society.

Germany named its first woman defense minister in 2013, Ursula von der Leyen, a popular political figure who is said to be a possible candidate for Chancellor of Germany, to follow the powerful Angela Merkel when she steps down.

Here in the Philippines, the devastation wrought by typhoon Yolanda – the strongest typhoon on record – made international headlines and graphically underlined the need for a more reliable advance warning system. On a more positive note, the country reached investment grade status for the first time, and the Philippines’ Cesar Purisima was named Asia’s Finance Minister of the Year.

2013 also saw a new word added to Webster’s dictionary: “selfie” – the practice of people taking pictures of themselves on their new cellphone cameras.

Because of the recent financial crisis in Europe and the United States, the most vibrant economic activity occurred in Asia. Former head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Dominique Strauss Kahn remarked in a television interview that “Europe is not competing anymore. They don’t understand globalization.” But Asians – including Filipinos – do understand, and they are in the thick of it, reaching out to other countries around the world, through modern technology.