In a climate of slow global economic growth, the opportunity presents itself for new and emerging industries to gain prominence in place of failing institutions. In the case of the recent worldwide economic slowdown, IT has emerged as a powerful driver of growth in nearly every developed country.
New technology innovations can transform economies. Take digitization – the mass adoption of connected digital services by consumers, enterprises, and governments – for example. According to the Global Information Technology Report 2013 by the World Economic Forum, “digitization boosted world economic output by nearly $200 billion and created 6 million jobs in 2011.” The report highlights how digitization also drives improvements in GDP per capita and can lead to a lower unemployment rate.
Technology innovations change the way individuals live and work and introduce new ways of doing business. They can also introduce new challenges, such as global cybercrime and privacy issues, that society and policy makers need to grapple with. As a society, we need to balance the risks and rewards of the new technologies that emerge around us. Even with the unintended consequences that come along with new technologies, it is clear that exporting and sharing them worldwide is a force for good. The overwhelming benefits of a more connected, smaller world far outweigh the inherent risks.
Tech Makes the World Go Round . . . And Get Smaller
As we look forward over the next ten years, there are a number of technologies that could have a massive, economically disruptive impact. I recently read the McKinsey Global Institute’s 2013 Disruptive Technologies report and was intrigued by the list of the top 12 technologies that they believe will “transform life, business and the global economy.” According to the report, these technologies share four key characteristics: high rate of technology change, broad potential scope of impact, large economic value and substantial potential for disruptive economics. They include:
- Mobile internet
- Automation of knowledge work
- The internet of things
- Cloud technology
- Advanced robotics
- Autonomous and near-autonomous vehicles
- Next-generation genomics
- Energy storage
- 3D printing
- Advanced materials
- Advanced oil and gas exploration and discovery
- Renewable energy
Another common theme binding these technologies together is human advancement. These technologies have the ability to grow the global economy and make our everyday lives easier. But, they have the potential to introduce new challenges and risks that we as a society need to solve.
Take advanced robotics, for example. The further automation of some workforces will create a streamlined workflow that can generate a consistent product at a standardized rate without human labor. The benefits are clear and adoption of this technology is generally good for our global economy. However, the human cost, such as lost jobs, cannot be underestimated. We’ll need to come together as a society – of consumers, business leaders and policy makers – to solve these challenges and ensure that we’re benefiting from the adoption of these new technologies.
IT: Breaking Down Borders
While the global impact of these innovations might be clear, what does it mean for your organization?
Organizations need to place bets on the technologies that can have the biggest impact to their business. Competitive advantage often comes to early adopters who leverage technology to transform their business. As disruptive technologies come to market, IT needs to quickly evaluate and implement those that make sense. And, they need to experiment with those technologies that they may not need right away.
As the world gets smaller and more connected organizations need to ensure they have a global R&D strategy. For years, many companies were focused on offshoring R&D to India. Today, tech hotspots are popping up around the world in places like the U.K.’s Tech City, Germany, Singapore and Brazil. The key for organizations is to leverage the pools of innovation around the world and set up shop in countries where talented engineers and scientists can interact directly with customers and prospects.
Clearly, technology innovations hold tremendous promise for our global economy and for our individual businesses. A decade ago, we had no clue the impact that mobile technology would have on our lives and today it’s ubiquitous. Regardless of the upheaval brought about by new technology advances and the new challenges they can introduce, disruptive innovations are the key to a prosperous future. I for one am looking forward to what the future holds!