Digitalization of Society

Always connected, always head down, skimming rather than digesting information. Personalized content delivered to us on every device, everywhere all the time.

Meshing and stacking, apps telling us when to brush our teeth, if it’s going to rain, when to put the rubbish out and, who that beautiful person is on the bus that we just smiled at. Welcome to the digitalisation of society.

You know when two thirds of the population over the age of 65 have moved across to an iPhone and your 65 year old Mother buys her underwear from M&S via her Google Nexus that something has changed and radically. 

We no longer have to ask for directions, we can find out exactly what is happening in our vicinity, put the heating on in advance of arriving home. Digitalisation has changed the way content/information is created, shared and accessed.

We have moved from the web of documents to the web of people. The idea of the ‘desk’ no longer the prominent concept but, instead, that of ‘mobile.’ We have created the connected lifestyle where digital teetotallers are becoming the minority. Five things have shaped this shift:

1. Cheap accessibility to devices and the web

2. Localisation

3. Digital identity

4. The web of things

5. Mobile

Differing sectors and different generations are experiencing digitalisation in differing ways but it will come to us all. As Simon Swan commented “Digitalisation, at the moment, is being used to leverage capitalism in terms of revenue and reducing costs, its been about extending profit margins. 

We haven’t thought culturally/socially about it enough.” Digital is breaking down the one size fits all, its bringing a level of personalisation never seen before but it will only have a future if it constantly creates value.

In the past things were driven by your browser, now it’s driven by apps. Applification will create mobile first solutions that meet business goals and provide user value by ensuring every app has a single clear purpose; always delighting users by focusing on the user experience. 

Big data, well we know everything about everybody. Peer to peer, organisation to customer, customer to organisation. Want to know anything, and I mean anything, and it’s there, if you know where to look and have a budget for it. In fact if you follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Fancy you know pretty much what I’m up to and what I’m into for free.

What this means is that we can capture the right person, deliver the right thing to that person, at the right time in the right place. Not just from a marketing point of view but from a healthcare perspective too. 

Plus the impact of natural interaction, simply the breakdown of the physical and virtual world. We increasingly live very organically and naturally in both worlds. As Claire Marshall added “I want to create a world I want to live in and there’s an app(s) for that.”

Yes there are downsides; people at social gatherings constantly checking their phones, bumping into lamp posts as we check our Facebook status, cyber bullying, stalking, knowing too much about someone, or them knowing too much about you. 

But then these things happened before we carried these devices about with us. Yes, our mobile, through notifications can be attention seeking. The technology is not at fault, the humans are. 

In the long run, connecting people to each other locally and globally will facilitate collaboration and some of our most societal pressing issues will be solved.

So, where did the think tank group feel that there would be the most significant steps:

1. Health and medicine

Enabling improved coordination of care through the secure exchange of health data. Connecting remote patients with world-class practitioners through virtual health technologies. 

Helping healthcare professionals analyse large data sets to make decisions on improving care quality and identify problems before they occur. These rapid advances in digitalisation will enable new care regimens and improved health for patients including the use of ‘smart drugs.’

2. Education

Nothing short of of reinvention is required and digitalisation will drive this. This is more than giving every student a tablet. Online learning, mass sharing, syllabus shake up and the school of life. Education delivered when a student needs and wants it in a location of their choice. 

Timetables, staid lectures and the classroom will change significantly. Self directed learning will become prevalent even for the youngest of people and we know this is beneficial.

“Want to know anything, and I mean anything, and it’s there, if you know where to look and have a budget for it.”

3. Transport

A train app will be linked to your alarm clock on your mobile. If your train is running late it will give you an extra 5 minutes in bed and alter the alarm as required, if you want. These things are optional you know.

Its not like this stuff is future gazing, it’s here now. Bikemap, a handful of LED’s are inserted into specific places on a map. The map shows the area around your home and each LED marks the location of a bike stand for the London city bike rental scheme. 

If there are more than five bikes at the stand a corresponding LED lights up. It is mounted into a picture frame and hangs near a front door, so you can see as you leave your home, which direction to head to find a bike. Zapacab became South Africa’s first cab hailing mobile platform, when it launched in August 2013. 

Snappcab, Zapacab, Afta Robot and Go Metro are all examples of local mobile platforms to serve South Africa’s diverse commuters. They use GPS positioning to connect you to the closest cabs, making it easier to move around and, of course, safer.

At the moment consumers are moving and adopting at a far quicker pace than organisations and unfortunately the ‘C’ suite are siloing digitalisation. Thats not the point really, digitalization is essentially about connection and accessibility. 

It is collapsing the hierarchical structure to one that is networked that becomes a vertically integrated eco system for collaboration. It’s exciting, it’s far reaching and its impact hasn’t even yet been understood or fully realized. 

If we use it properly, it will be able to open our eyes and see more clearly which frankly most of us have been desperate to achieve for years.

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