The future is digital.
But old proverb enlightens that ‘thou shall not live by bread alone’! Is the other side of the pandemic peeping into the future? Will it be a tale of the Bad, the very Ugly and the Bold side of Technology? Now that we are audaciously migrating to Mars, what will the future digital transformation look like?
Whichever way we perceive it; this is now the critical time to think without the box and begin the migration from digital economy to digital transformation. The huge national challenge and equitable potential before us require nothing less. Undisputedly, there is a great difference between the digital economy platform and the digital transformation ecosystem.
The entire fundamentals of the future are perceived to be anchored on digital-of-things and everything. This all-embracing architecture is designed, constructed and functionally depend on many interconnected-influencer value-chains of reasoning, research, creativity, innovation and resilience for sustainable development.
Rooted at the core of that singularity’s knowledge-web architecture is digital transformation. The problem statement is deeply broad and encompasses our entire humanity. It is a colossus in its structural magnanimity. Digital transformation addresses broad range of complexities such as climate change enshrined in the shared values of our collective environment; human institutions, food security, physical security, shelter, health and health-care security, state of global corruption in governance, racial discrimination, women abuse, crime on the defenceless and people with disabilities, and so on. It is the digital change orchestrated by multidimensional, multidisciplinary, and multifunctional components – purposely and seamlessly interacting with each other.
This fluid connectivity atmosphere makes it easy to define digital transformation as the integration of all areas and intangible aspects of digital technologies in all areas of human endeavour. Currently, the COVID-19 vaccine is available to transform us from the new normal back to the way we used to live; plus, a renewed innovation-of-things.
Therefore, digital transformation has become an inevitable constant in change-process constant, resulting in fundamental re-imagination of our collective future, deploying science, technology engineering, and mathematical innovation-of-things to the rescue.
The biological essence of digital transformation is resemblance of complete human anatomy. In other words, it is the global economy that is undergoing a rapid digital transformation as one of the crucial parts of digital humanity. Leveraging ‘environment, culture, thinking, knowledge, research, creativity, innovation and many more; these complexities are subjected to undergo incredible change and must be transformed. Therefore, the strategical thinking is, Africa must now begin her digital transformation agenda.
The time to reconstruct the foundation of our digital future is now.
This reasoning becomes more compelling, as we cannot build the skyscraper of our future knowledge on the foundation of a bungalow. The world as we know it is continually changing. The fundamental driving force is digital transformation. And indeed, the economic aspect of the digital component cannot stand alone in nothingness!
“The aggressive use of data is transforming business models, facilitating new products and services, creating new processes, generating greater utility, and ushering in a new culture of management.” (Professor Walter Brenner of the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland). The World Trade equation is preparing and steaming to retool itself and the engine room resides in digital transformation; from ground zero, upwards.
For example, the WTO 2020 forecasts posted a 9.2% decline in the volume of world merchandise trade. This is followed by a 7.2% rise in 2021. However, these estimates are subject to an unusually high degree of uncertainty; since they depend on the evolution of the pandemic and government responses to it. Current data suggests a projected decline for the current year that is less severe than the 12.9% drop foreseen under the more optimistic of two scenarios outlined in the WTO’s April 2020 trade forecast.
In fact, the trade growth forecast was predominantly centred on COVID-19 related business products, supplies and services. It is also interesting to note that GDP fell more than expected in the first half of 2020; causing forecasts for the year to be downgraded. Consensus estimates at that time then put the decline in world market-weighted GDP in 2020 at -4.8% compared to ‑2.5% under the more optimistic scenario outlined in the WTO’s April forecast. GDP growth is expected to pick up to 4.9% in 2021. But this is highly dependent on policy measures and on the severity of the challenges.
How do we classify the digital economy?
Essentially, it is the sum total of economic activities bundled in the interactions of billions of nanosecond online networks services among people, businesses, devices, data, and processes. The primary understanding of the digital economy is its dense-connectivity features. This functional ability enables the fluid interconnectedness of people, organizations, businesses, machines and many unknowns.
Jobs, jobs, jobs everywhere and no one to hire? Lost jobs, disappearing jobs and emerging tech-centric jobs – how does the world economy recover? The imaginary fight between Technology and the Pandemic can be classified as that of diminishing returns or crying over spilt milk! Fact is, the world has been experiencing diverse environmental, education and human health challenges and recurring deficit for many decades without commensurate skill transformation. Many jobs are gone and may not return!
Whichever way we look at the notion of redefining the global economy and the new normal; be it in Agriculture, Education, Governance, Health, Communications, Entertainment, Trade, Commence and Logistics; you will find Technology as the centre of gravity. Also, there are indications that we are going back to the old class struggle. This scenario is not new. Similar trend occurred during the First World War, the flu pandemic and World War 2.
The central argument in this conversation calls to question the rationale, if the economy aspect alone can invigorate and sustain the processes of digital future, without a complete transformation of the entire digital ecosystem? With special reference to Nigeria/Africa? That is doubtful! This acknowledgement becomes a useful instrument to measure the monumental digital challenges before our nation, going forward. For example, COVID-19 transformational agenda has recognized that the future of work must now be linked to future digital economy; making education and upskilling the panacea for the post-COVID-19 dysfunctional economic recovery of the future.
The world is and will continue to experience a massive global skills gap to reboot the future of work as an inevitable transformational imperative. A new class struggle in all nations will emerge. Also, the nature and intensity of the struggle will be tech-centric. This would be similar to the role emerging technologies played in past World Wars.
Digital transformation remains perhaps the most complex and unpredictable challenge to the future of humanity. Indeed, it is time to rethink Africa as one united nation with comprehensive abilities to engage.
It would amount to a great illusion to belief that the millions of COVID-19 induced jobs losses all over the world will still be there waiting to be reoccupied. No. Quite the opposite will happen. Jobs of the future will only be available to those who have been retrained; reskilled and equipped with new ideas and innovative minds to think without the box and create the extraordinary. That is the new tech-enabled world awaiting all of us to explore.
It is not just about the world of AI, IoT, Electric cars, Smart regions and Cities, Virtual and Augmented Reality. There are many ambiguities to reimagine. Imagine if the millions of people who have lost their jobs during the pandemic could be retrained for careers in Data Analytics, Software programming, Cyber-security and other tech-enabled spheres. Imagine a Presidential Executive Order compelling all states to connect and work with local businesses, SMEs, Tech-Campus-Universities; as well as not-for-profit organizations to accelerate the emergence of the new workforce focused on the provision of dynamic skills for the future-of-work. Collaboration beckons us to rethink.
Recently, TechCrunch, a digital economy news platform, noted: “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.’’
It is indicative that something complexly interesting is happening. Deliotte noted and asked: ‘What is it about these companies that allows them to re-imagine the traditional boundaries and value proposition of their industry? What can these young companies teach you about leading a digital transformation’?
The answer, we agree, lies beyond digital economy. In closing, there are billions of stars and other undiscovered planets up there glowing above us with amazingly encrypted messages; inviting and waiting to be digitized in bits, bytes and gigabytes. Perseverance had just registered the ‘first bit’ in the journey of life transformation in the digital realm; the red planet. A realm currently beyond our collective imagination but awaiting our audacity and persistence of generations yet unborn to transform.
Digital transformation is an infinite human adventure – now and forever more.