What digital transformation means to the developing world
When we think about digital transformation, we can probably distil it down to being about mass customisation - selling to the "market of one", says Trevor Luyt, MD, SQS SA.
If you have access to this post then most likely you are living in the developed world, are digitally connected and are economically active. For those of us lucky enough to be in this position, when we think about digital transformation, we can probably distil it down to being about mass customisation - selling to the "market of one", says Trevor Luyt, Managing Director, SQS SA.
Modern business development is driven by data, so it follows that the more data-driven a business can be, the more they are ripe for disruption by the likes of a Google or Facebook, for example, who have vast amounts of data on us. In a natural follow-on from the financial sector, insurance is a key area for such disruptors to gain a foothold.
They are the keepers and the scientists of our digital DNA. They can mine this deep, wide and highly granular information to provide a specific insurance premium, uniquely tailored for each individual based on their actual data, without basing calculations on industry averages.
If you look at any number of examples such as retail, or banking and financial services, digital transformation is allowing corporations, suppliers and institutions to create a mass-customised service, but of course only to the connected world.
Those of us that are at the leading-edge of technology only make up a small percentage of the global population while a great number of the world's population do not have the luxury of such recent advances. However, this is changing with 46% of the global population having Internet access in 2016, 28% owning a smartphone and a further 37% having a regular mobile phone.
So how can digital transformation also be meaningful for those in the developing world that don't have access to disposable income and technology?
And this is where it gets interesting! There is a different agenda playing out in much of the developing world. For the current crop of 'advanced nations' they have generally developing economically and socially in tandem with technology - one often fuelling the other. Nations that are developing today are able to learn from our developments, as well as our mistakes and use current technological advances - A phenomenon known as 'leapfrogging'.
If we examine the communications industry, we are all on mobile devices now but preceding that was of course our dear old friend the landline. Landlines were ubiquitous across virtually every home and business in the developed world, but most of Africa just leapfrogged that entire technology and infrastructure to go straight to mobile devices and we are likely to see this playing out in more and more infrastructures and industries.
One area in particular will be in banking. Vast portions of the undeveloped world are 'un-banked', operating primarily in a cash society. While the developed world has built a bricks-and-mortar banking system, that whole infrastructure will get leapfrogged as the solution to bringing stable, secure banking to these regions has only become addressable since the introduction of mobile and internet banking.
This will also most likely play out in transport, where in Europe and other developed nations cars are an affordable luxury, yet in the developing world cars are still often unaffordable for most.
As we see autonomous vehicles coming into the developed world already, developing countries will leapfrog car ownership due to not just the rate of their development, and sustainability, but because proposals around autonomous vehicle usage include various forms of ride-sharing that can reduce costs for many and even become a source of revenue for others.
The most prominent of these concepts is the Uber-like model, where while not in use by the vehicle owner, the car would be allowed to be used by other travellers that pay for their journey via an app or other digital method. Due to the low running costs and efficient energy usage these would make for more affordable, safer transport than traditional cabs and taxis, making it a much more affordable solution than owning cars as well as an affordable solution for the proliferation of autonomous cars.
Another concept would be car-sharing where the total cost is spread amongst several users such as a few houses, a street or a whole community, and the car could be shared with an intelligently managed booking system.
It is a really exciting time to be involved in information technology as digital transformation drives social and economic change as well. But just as they say in every superhero film "with great power comes great responsibility", and it is imperative that organisations entering this arena, becoming the gatekeepers of both consumers and businesses' most sensitive data, and protect both themselves and the public with a pro-active, quality-led approach.
The pace of change is exponential, with Moore's Law never failing to surprise us with its accuracy, bringing with it better products and solutions sooner than ever before. However, with this increased speed comes increased risk, so robust Quality Assurance strategies and systems must be in place to ensure everything from robustness of the framework to customer service response, from source data quality to security and data privacy and beyond.
But perhaps at its core, what digital transformation is really about is constantly asking 'Is there a better way for my business to solve this problem?'. Thanks to modern information technology we are not only learning faster but sharing faster, fuelling this upward knowledge-spiral. And it's this approach that has allowed a climate where as developed nations embrace the information age more fully they immediately gain access to current ideas, without having to go through the lengthy process of developing it for themselves.
So what is interesting is not just the transformation for the 10% that are economically wealthy and/or digitally savvy, but that which is now at play for the undeveloped world, and how the true story of digital transformation isn't really Agile and algorithms - ultimately, it's about inventing life-changing activities that are better for literally everyone in the world.