Digital Divide: Economic
Previously, we touched on how the disparity in our levels of access to technology can have real consequences in our global society. Continuing our mini-series on the digital divide, we focus on the economic factors that the digital divide affects. As technology is now a major part of the economy, access to technology has an impact on your economic options.
Information Technology and Business
A very simple example of the economic impact of the digital divide is if you do not do business online - you cannot compete in the global, digital economy. Information technology is having a massive impact on the global economy - we are in the middle of the next big economic shift. Access to technology determines how much anyone can be part of the shift as opposed to left on the outside looking in. Information technology products are increasingly accessible to small businesses. Being known as “old school” will become slang for having your lunch eaten by your competition. Medium sized businesses are losing their competitive advantage over small, agile firms that can offer specialized products in as much time.
Visibility in the online world is visibility in the tangible world. Especially in the “gig economy” job prospects/contractors are competing on a global scale. Access to these markets could potentially lift people out of poverty as they bring high tech skills to the table. The point being - they need high tech skills and that requires exposure to the world folks like us live in everyday. In fact, there is an industrial stigma surrounding Indian software development. That stigma results from a gap in education, which is rapidly closing. Access to jobs is now global. Ignoring some complications, a job candidate can be found anywhere in the world now - and that means applicants have to be able to view postings and again, have the education required to compete in a meaningful manner.
Depending on where you live, the government generally has three reactions to the implications technology is bringing closer to reality. They are either way behind on figuring out what to do, they are clamping down on everything, or some mix of both. Governments are also investing in their own technology tools to keep up and address the threats they see on the global and local stage. How the government treats this exploding global, digital economy will affect how citizens and firms can do business within its borders. Governments will have regulation, like the US encryption export laws.
Businesses themselves have developed policies and rules for their digital products - data storage, security, access rules, etc. The ability to properly handle these requirements will be an additional barrier for foreign firms looking to win business in developed nations. These requirements are often onerous, and are often security theatre as opposed to a real pragmatic approach to security in the digital age.
The digital economy is only getting bigger. Access to opportunity will be defined by your ability to understand and work with people in the digital economy. I didn’t talk about it, but the simple ability to use a computer and perform meaningful tasks is already a critical requirement for businesses of all sizes. Even with access, digital literacy is not a given - some people will simply find it too abstract. As more of our society and economy comes online, powerful, fundamental shifts will happen faster as innovations are rapidly rolled out across the world. Game changers like big data aggregation, machine learning techniques, and other big technology products are functionally unavailable to large portions of the world (but not for long.) As for our sales pitch - we close the digital divide for our clients. We empower them to understand and take advantage of the incredible gains the digital economy provides. Technology is removed as a barrier, and becomes a driver of business.
Digital Divide Mini-Series
The mini-series is complete! Our first completed blog series! It was only a two-parter, but it is an expansive topic we have only dipped our toe into here. As the developing markets wake up, there will be a large shift in the North American centric nature of our perception of the internet. North American firms in many ways have a large foothold (Facebook and Google ARE the internet in a lot of places) - but eventually local, more culturally targetted offerings may offer compelling options for the billion plus people being lifted out of poverty. Further complicating this picture are future government regulations and other digital restrictions that may come into play as foreign govenments reduce their digital dependence on western products.
Tap or click on these posts to navigate to the next or previous posts.
This post is part of a larger series. Tap or click on a post to view more in this series.