A new ranking by the Project Management Institute (PMI) has identified 50 of the most influential projects in the world undertaken in the last five decades – including a host of tech and finance innovations like Google Search, Bitcoin and M-Pesa.
According to the PMI, which boasts 550,000 members, the Most Influential Projects list recognises projects that have transformed their sectors and the entire business landscape, chosen from among more than 1,000 high-impact items.
The projects were identified by 400 leaders in the global project management community.
While technological innovations feature prominently on the list – with the creation of the World Wide Web being the project to top the list for “connecting everyone and everything” – the selected projects are not necessarily all products or services.
The PMI also highlights social projects, such as the Rwanda National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, as well as literary projects such as the Harry Potter series of books, which the group says “made reading cool” and spurred a generation of book lovers.
Other projects include architectural and engineering projects like the Sydney Opera House – which shows the power of design to define a city – and the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.
Ranked high up on the list is African innovation, M-Pesa, the payments platform developed by Safaricom and Vodafone.
The system ranks as the ninth most influential project for completely revolutionising the banking and finance industry in Kenya and other markets where formal banking is scarce.
Launched in 2007, M-Pesa allowed customers to use simple text messages to send money, make deposits and withdrawals, and purchase airtime minutes.
In the first three years of service, users transferred more than US$600 billion, generating about US$100 million in revenue for Safaricom and Vodafone. By 2019, M-Pesa had 31.8 million active users in Kenya alone.
Kenya has since become a leading tech hub in Africa, with annual GDP growth rates hovering above 5%, while M-Pesa has evolved into a full financial services solution where users can make small payments and exchange cash, and also pay bills, receive paycheques and social grants, and access loans and saving products.
The Top 50 Most Influential Projects
- World Wide Web – For connecting everyone and everything.
- Apollo 11 – For proving risk management and out-of-this-world ambitions can make the impossible possible.
- Intel 4004 Microprocessor – For democratising the power of computing.
- The Euro – For flawlessly executing the largest monetary changeover in history.
- Human Genome Project – For rising above usual silos to unlock the building block of humanity and enable unparalleled innovations in medicine, biotech and life sciences.
- Alibaba Singles Day – For creating the largest e-commerce day in the world and fundamentally shifting how people shop.
- Prius Car – For driving the auto industry toward a more sustainable future.
- Live Aid Concert – For reimagining the magnitude and model of philanthropy with a major dose of celebrity.
- M-Pesa Mobile Microfinancing Platform– For delivering cutting-edge mobile technology that allowed Kenya to leapfrog past more advanced economies and start a banking revolution.
- Svalbard Global Seed Vault – For building the ultimate insurance policy for the world’s food supply.
- Netflix Streaming – For proving a single project can pivot a company, an industry and viewing habits of the entire world.
- DynaTAC 8000x Mobile Phone – For connecting phones to people, not places.
- Alexa Voice Service – For making voice-activated computer interface a part of everyday life.
- Paris Fashion Week – For transforming a ho-hum industry showcase into an all-eyes-are-watching global event.
- Burj Khalifa – For standing tall as a symbol of economic diversification in the Middle East.
- Walt Disney World Resort – For setting the bar on immersive entertainment – and then raising it again and again.
- Google Search – For transforming the way we think about and identify information.
- Belt and Road Initiative – For launching the largest infrastructure blitz the world has ever seen –1,814 projects and counting.
- Bitcoin – For putting cryptocurrency on the map and giving birth to blockchain.
- MRI – For revolutionising medicine in a noninvasive way.
- Harry Potter Books – For making reading cool – and that’s just the beginning of the magic.
- Boeing 747 Airplane – For making the world smaller with the first jumbo jet.
- iPod Player – For being the gateway gadget to the iUniverse.
- Hornsdale Power Reserve – For showing how one big battery could revolutionise renewable energy.
- Rwanda National Unity and Reconciliation Commission – For forging a path to recovery and redemption amid severe trauma.
- International Space Station – For showing that space exploration transcends global politics.
- Panama Canal Expansion – For supersizing a century-old waterway to meet modern shipping demands.
- Global Polio Eradication Initiative – For leading the world’s largest public health initiative and bringing a deadly disease to the brink of elimination.
- Atari 2600 Video Game Player – For bringing arcade games into homes around the world.
- Ground Zero Master Plan – For helping a city and nation heal, remember and rise again.
- Aadhaar – For using biometrics to recalibrate how Indians interact with their government and beyond.
- Vindeby Offshore Wind Farm – For demonstrating the viability of offshore wind as a clean energy powerhouse.
- Curitiba BRT – For sparking a transportation revolution in cities around the world.
- COSMOS Package Tracking System – For opening the e-commerce floodgates with real-time package tracking for express courier service.
- Swat Valley Project – For championing girls’ education and empowerment in a country where its founder was once attacked for exercising those rights.
- Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia – For tapping into the world’s collective knowledge with a radically collaborative, multilingual online encyclopedia.
- Star Wars Motion Pictures – For reinventing special effects and cementing the concept of a movie blockbuster series, all while taking viewers to a galaxy far, far away.
- Project Tiger – For rescuing the majestic big cat from the brink of extinction in the wild.
- Sorek Desalination Plant – For relieving devastating drought with a sustainable solution.
- First IVF Baby – For delivering a modern medical miracle.
- Chernobyl Cleanup – For mitigating the world’s worst nuclear plant disaster – twice.
- E-Estonia – For building the world’s first digital country.
- World of Warcraft Interactive Game – For taking video game play to a whole new level.
- Large Hadron Collider – For enabling mind-blowing scientific discoveries that are helping physicists decode the universe.
- TGV – For igniting Europe’s ultra-fast bullet train – safely.
- Khan Academy Education Services – For demonstrating the vast promise of online learning.
- Watson Computer Software – For ushering artificial intelligence and machine learning into the mainstream.
- Tengger Desert Solar Park – For building the Great Wall of Solar.
- Operation Flood – For transforming India into the world’s largest milk producer and helping to kick-start the country’s nascent economy.
- Sydney Opera House – For demonstrating architecture’s power to redefine a city.