The world in which we live is digitising at an ever-increasing pace. A greater share of our daily lives now involves engagement with mobile phones, computers and other digital platforms than ever before, leaving behind an expanding data footprint. By 2020, about 1.7 megabytes of new information will be captured for each human being on the planet – every second. The rate of data creation will only accelerate as more and different types of internet connected devices are designed with ‘smart’ capabilities.
The digital revolution is upon us and in this new world, data is the currency. It’s the single most important commodity to a new generation of consumers and businesses; the means of exchange used by billions to “pay” for products and services with no monetary cost in the traditional sense; and an “asset” that now incurs legal rights and responsibilities and is overseen by regulatory authorities.
The digital revolution is upon us and in this new world, data is the currency.
Underlying these fundamental structural changes is the evolution of the technology industry. In just a few decades, technology has gone from an esoteric hobby pursued in Bay Area garages to a sector that accounts for almost a third of the S&P 500 and, as of the beginning of 2019, four of the top five largest listed corporates globally.
But what is an even more striking feature of the ongoing digital revolution is the way in which technology has continued to expand its reach beyond being merely a standalone sector. It hasn’t contented itself with dominating the rankings of the world’s most valuable public companies, in the way that oil & gas and financial services did before it. Instead, it has crept into every segment of the economy and evolved to become the platform on which all industries run their businesses.
In just a few decades, technology has gone from an esoteric hobby pursued in Bay Area garages to a sector that accounts for a third of the S&P 500 and has crept into every segment of the economy.
Welcome to the ‘Digital Economy’: the global ecosystem of businesses whose core product or service offering are run on, delivered via and differentiated by their technology platform. Previously these businesses had a customer-supplier relationship with a technology vendor, buying a product or a service from a third party to streamline their processes or refine their operations. Today, the technology platform is the bank, or the retailer, or the travel agent.
This revolution has driven large-scale digitisation by established industry behemoths, but also created disruptive champions in new segments like FinTech, IndustrialTech, HealthTech and PharmaTech, among others. For example, new entrants like Uber, WeWork and Airbnb have established dominant positions in markets as mature as urban transportation, commercial real estate and tourism respectively, by virtue of being first movers with a technology platform fit for the Digital Economy.
In the Digital Economy core products and services are run on, delivered via and differentiated by their technology platform.
A number of key enablers have played a vital role in inducing entire industries to embrace the Digital Economy and pivot their operations onto a technology platform.
The most fundamental facilitator has been the exponential increase in computing power that has taken place since 1965, when Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, made a famous prediction about future increases in the number of transistors in an integrated circuit. ‘Moore’s Law’, the eponymous hypothesis that the speed and capability of computers would double every two years, has been powerfully borne out, with modern-day smartphones performing instructions over 100 million times faster than the computers that landed Apollo 11 on the moon.
The rise of public cloud infrastructure has made additional storage and computing power available on demand, serving an equivalent role to data-intensive businesses in the Digital Economy as the electricity grid did to energy-intensive industries.
Pervasive connectivity and powerful mobile devices have made locations and distances irrelevant. Social platforms have codified underlying human relationships, creating an intricate fabric to transact and exchange user data, opinions, sentiment and trust. Meanwhile, heightened cybersecurity capabilities have provided greater certainty, protection and resilience to mission-critical digital operations.
Lastly, the rapid development of artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data analytics has helped interpret large, diverse and complex forms of data and turn them into actionable and valuable corporate assets. These enablers are the pillars on which the Digital Economy rests.
We are witnessing a profound change in the structure and composition of the global economy. This revolution has driven large-scale digitisation by established industry behemoths, but also created disruptive champions in new segments.
All told, we are witnessing a profound change in the structure and composition of the global economy. The digital revolution has emerged from the chaos left behind by the Global Financial Crisis and is the undisputed successor to the financial revolution of the 1980s, when securitisation and the proliferation of new financial instruments transformed global markets and swelled the share of global GDP contributed by the financial services sector. It even exhibits parallels with the Industrial Revolution before it, when mechanisation and the spread of large-scale factories and mass manufacturing transformed the world.
The Digital Economy is the new paradigm in which all entrepreneurs, investors, businesses, professionals and consumers operate today, ushered in by a revolution as far-reaching as some of the most famous economic transformations of the modern era. No one can afford to be left behind!