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The many faces of Digital Transformation – The Enablers XIV


A graphic presenting, in an imaginative way, the evolution of technologies and their use leading to changes in society with the bridge among the two provided by the economic evolution. The diagram is just evocative, does not have a quantitative base. It was used in a talk by the futurist Gerd Leonhard in 2015 discussing 2020.

Societal Enablers

The Digital Transformation has huge impacts on Society, both positive and negatives. These will be considered at length in future posts. The Digital Transformation is also, at least partially, enabled by the evolution of culture and “habits”, the main one being the adoption of the smartphone and it use as a bridge to the cyberspace.

The smartphone has penetrated the society reaching a 95% in South Korea  and well over 60% in developed countries. Notably, it is growing rapidly also in developing countries approaching 50% in 2020 in most of these. The smartphone is the gate to the cyberspace and it is a device that has become so popular that using it is now a seamless “habit”. One doesn’t need to teach a person to use a smartphone, either that person already is familiar with it or the environment will be supporting the learning.

This bridge to the cyberspace is so effective that one could even say that we are already living in an augmented reality world. Whenever there is the need for an information that is just a few screen touches away and people are taking this overlapping of digital information and the world for granted.

Companies are taking advantage of this and tend to develop services in the cyberspace, knowing they will be easily accessible to everybody everywhere.

Digital citizenship is also transforming the relation between governmental institutions and citizens, mostly mediated by the smartphone. Secure access to on line content, to bank accounts, to medical exams and records, voting and much more is now relying on the smartphone (more and more using biometric confirmation).

The lower cost in delivering services via the smartphone stimulates industry and in a virtuous spiral, the availability of more and more digital services increases the digital culture and the habit of users that now are expecting them.

Of course, this leads to a transformation of processes, once these are moved to the cyberspace they often need to be changed, the human intermediation disappears, people get used to interact with machines via apps.

Looking at the graphic one can see (on the left hand side) a slate of technologies that have changed the mindset and habits of people:

  • Internet, Social Media, Mobile, Cloud have become part of people’s life (one takes for granted that a rental home will come with internet, social media is the way to keep in touch and be informed and they have broken the information asymmetry where only few sources where the owner of information, mobile access “is” the access, one may not go back home to pick up the forgotten wallet but will surely go back to pick up the phone, the cloud has become the normal repository for entertainment, photos…)
  • Big Data Analytics, AI, 3D printing, Renewable energy, Internet of Things, Cognitive Systems, Nanotech, Robotics even Blockchain are no longer terms reserved to engineers. They make the headlines of newspaper and fill advertisement in mass market products. People may not really know what they are but are a common part of the daily landscape.

The convergence of these technologies fostered by the Digital Transformation is on the one hand stimulating their further evolution (right end side – green line) and accelerating them (most recently a key player in the industry mentioned this synergetic evolution as the creation of an hypersphere, hyper because of its multidimensionality and because of the acceleration deriving from the synergy), on the other hand has an economic underpinning stimulating as well as steering companies to accelerate their adoption (purple line)  and finally resulting in a changing societal environment, designing new scenarios (black line) that in turns pressure companies and institutions.

In the following these new scenarios will be addressed, tying them to the Digital Transformation.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.