Digital disruption can help us build a better tomorrow

3rd grader Osiel Dominguez (R) attends an event for students to learn to write computer code at the Apple store in the Manhattan borough of New York December 9, 2015.     REUTERS/Carlo Allegri - GF10000260388

Learning to write code is becoming as fundamental as reading, writing and arithmetic. Image: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

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The Digital Economy

In the last decade, digital transformation has been a key driver for profitable growth, customer delight, and seamless operations. Today, we are well into the digital revolution, reaping its benefits, solving problems that lie in its wake, and trying to determine our next steps on the way forward.

As digitalization becomes more pervasive, so does its reach across society, culture, and the economy. Today almost every facet of our lives – from the way we communicate and how we consume to what and how we learn – has been touched, if not transformed, by it.

So the question that begs our attention is how do we harness this burgeoning digital maturity for the greater, common good? How do we create a new world order – an era of equality, growth, and shared success?

The first step is to understand digital maturity, across countries and corporations. A thorough comprehension of what it comprises, its drivers, roadblocks, and all possible outcomes, can help us harness its true potential.

To do that, in early 2018, we commissioned a study to evaluate digital maturity. We found a wide gap in digital maturity across global corporations. Three distinct clusters emerged – visionaries who understand the potential of the digital revolution to completely transform business; explorers who commit to digital programmes to enhance the experience they offer to their customers; and watchers who view transformation through the single lens of efficiency.

But what also emerged was the new opportunity that lies beyond the enterprise. One that allows us to build a more promising future, empower people, and create new growth opportunities.

Digital maturity across global corporations.

Looking to a digitally enhanced future

As the gamut of new technologies unfolds, the list of things-to-do and to adapt to only grows longer. What can you do with a whole new slew of digital technologies? This is limited only by your imagination. And how well you wield it depends on your ability to use it contextually. Here, digitally mature organizations lead the way, harnessing digitalization to alter the way people live and work.

In healthcare, AI, data, and advanced analytics have enabled professionals to make great strides in disease diagnosis, to personalize treatment and even make it available remotely. Similarly, in retail, unmanned stores promise to improve convenience, make purchases cheaper due to disintermediation and enhance the shopping experience; while tellers prone to human errors in banks are being aided by unerring automatons.

This is the future – one where digital maturity impacts people directly, not just by improving experience or convenience but actually improving quality of life, even for low-income consumers, in the farthest corners of the globe.

Readying people for the machine age

Digital transformation is redefining education for the age of machines. What started as an attempt to close skills gaps in the workforce, has fast become a race against time to not only equip people with new, digital age skills but to also create an environment where creativity and innovation have free rein.

Today, policymakers and societies are preparing for a future with technology. This means redefining education at the primary level, collaborating with governments and academia to help align curricula with requirements of the real world, and developing a clear agenda and strategy based on how technology will shape the economy and society over the coming decades.

Here again, it is the digitally mature organizations who have been most successful in embedding technology into learning and creating digital platforms that offer seamless, personalized learning. They are best poised to advise on how to create a new multidisciplinary, technologically savvy workforce that can draw on the prowess of technologies and work alongside it.

For instance, the ability to write code is becoming as fundamental as yesterday’s three Rs (reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic). As our reliance on technology grows, so does our dependence on coding. In fact, today you may require a coder and a mechanic to repair your car, as the average new car contains about 100 million lines of code.

Creating new pools of value

This is perhaps where digital maturity reveals its strongest card. Society cannot progress if it cannot continually create new sources of value, as older ones are depleted.

Disruptive technologies have redefined how we live and work. What next? We need new business models and capabilities that allow us to harness technology to create greater value, not just in terms of revenue generation, but in terms of creativity, innovation and inclusivity. A digitally capable society will be able to constantly create new products and services, provide greater personalization, and solve problems that seem unsolvable.

Today, we no longer just consume technology but increasingly rely on technology as a tool to create. The pinnacle of digital maturity is when it allows us to create greater value. This also includes protecting basic rights, identifying new sources of capital, and creating an environment where citizens prosper equitably.

Take the case of our new digital identities, they are the gateway to a range of services. Now, even those without traditional identities, can obtain digital ones based on biometrics and access basic services such as healthcare, financial aid, education and, with that, the possibility of a better life, where none existed before.

More than just responding to the digital revolution, enterprises now have the opportunity to steer themselves and the industry they operate in, through it, towards a progressive future. The result: a win-win situation, where everybody benefits from being digital.

The journey ahead for companies is about creating a progressive, inclusive and responsible digital future. The only question that remains is the pace at which enterprises act – will that be watching cautiously, exploring tentatively, or going boldly as a visionary?

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