The Digital Age, 4th Industrial Revolution

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How Technology is Changing Our World.

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Abstract

The world is witnessing a phenomenal period of unprecedented technological advancement, mostly exciting and sometimes scary, depending on one’s point of view. The emergence of transformational technologies has created a vacuum between skills and emerging jobs, between the traditional and the digital. In many instances in previous ages, technology has intervened to solve a problem or improve a system, playing a temporary, just in Time role in creating a solution. Innovations have moved the technology forward but only at a linear rate. The wheel for example, stepped in to facilitate the movement of goods, the steam engine facilitated increased production, the railroad facilitated the train powered by a steam engine that opened up pathways and new markets. Innovations led to cars, new societal norms and quality of life. This new age of digital disruption is different because it destroys traditional processes. The railroad has become the Internet, the World Wide Web the vehicle for delivery. Products and services can be delivered on the internet via the Web, instantaneously. However, it is the speed of innovative creativity on the Web that has outpaced people needs and wants, and people lag behind the technology in finding ways to implement and benefit in ways still unknown. 3D Printing goes far beyond the manufacturing of consumer products. Health issues can be ameliorated as tissues and organs and prosthetics can be custom made. It’s zero-wastage capability will add significant value in the manufacturing value chain. Inputs will be recyclable thus creating a beneficial environmental impact. Robotics and Artificial Intelligence will make jobs safer and more effective, thus creating new streams for investment, research and development, and a world that is more environmentally clean. The world no longer has to wait for technology to catch-up with its needs, but the world must catch-up with the technology. The technology doesn’t wait, as traditional is not only being disrupted, but eliminated. Case in point, Kodak. There is exponential growth : Facebook, Uber, Airbus, WhatsApp, Crypto currencies, Blockchain, driverless cars, drones, Robotics etc. The list is long. Coal led to steam engines, oil lead to combustion, the new age of alternative, renewable energy in solar, wind, wave and ambient energy are all real and becoming entrenched. Electric powered vehicles such as cars and drones are changing our landscape of everyday living.

Digital Technology

Cloud Computing, The Internet of Things, Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence and Algorithms are Digital Age technologies set to literally explode in the short to medium term as their value become more apparent. Blockchain, Robotics and 3d Printing appear as evolving technologies capable of completely disrupting traditional systems of manufacturing, and delivery. With the Internet of Things fast becoming a reality, Cloud Computing, Big Data, Algorithms etc will demand greater computing power with the vast amount of unstructured data being generated and collected. The development of Quantum Computing is imminent with the need. Alternative energy in solar, wind and wave and ambient environment energy are being developed as good sources, whilst there remain possibilities in other areas of clean energy as research and development persists. Many possibilities and opportunities will become apparent, as entrepreneurs are currently doing with great effect. Elon Musk is a great example of how to capitalize on these, to great effect.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) Davos 2016 formalized Industry 4.0, the Digital Age of Technology, or The 4th Industrial Revolution, ushering exponential growth through the digital disruption. Speed and accessibility is the growth force with the Internet enabling almost anything to be designed, produced and delivered direct “to-the-home.” A 3d printer can be purchased and located in the home, a design of a product can be accessed on the Internet, chosen or even customized to your liking, and printed in your house. Household items like cups and plates, personal items like clothes can be customer fit and printed. There are instances of tissue and organs being made at medical facilities for patients, and prosthetics also custom fitted and made.and Drone technologies are being designed to carry loads delivering products. The opportunities and possibilities are endless. Online direct home delivery, of goods and services such as telemedicine, food, clothing and critical services are now all very possible.

Business & Society in the Digital Age

For Business, Cloud Computing, The Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Algorithms and Augmented Reality present avenues for creating value throughout the Supply Chain. Access anywhere, anytime for the business to operate virtually, always reachable to the customer, management and suppliers. The November-December 2017 Issue of the Harvard Business Review emphasized “Why Every Organization Needs An Augmented Reality Strategy” written by Michael Porter and James E. Heppelmann. Blockchain, a foundational technology promises to disrupt and innovate every process for accountability and transparency in Government, Business and Society. In an age where good governance can bring significant benefits through the inculcation of high integrity and adherence to morals and ethics, Blockchain is powerful tool.

These technologies have simplified but solidified business organizations in all aspects of management and the Value Chain. Organizations who embrace these technologies swiftly will reap the benefits of leadership in the marketplace by engaging customers in a way that has not been possible until now. The new era of value adding technology in front of the customer is now.

The Internet of Things will encompass big data, Algorithms, Augmented Reality to ensure customer focus, high efficiency and operational effectiveness in business, Smart Villages and Cities will emerge, allowing better governance, compliance and accountability.

China is in the process of implementing a National Smart Car Strategy, employing Artificial Intelligence (AI) and eventually this will evolve to electric powered cars. AI goes well with Augment Reality to provide safer, more efficient driving and journey planning.

Societies embracing technology such as Blockchain, demand greater accountability and transparency from Government and Business. It is a culture shift in the making for small and developing countries in a pathway setting global standards as the “Democratization of Technology” takes effect.

Energy in the Digital Age

Powering the Digital Age requires a high consumption of energy. Bitcoin , for example, consumes large amounts of energy and Cloud Computing requires large amounts of energy to power data-centers. The Digital Age is about endusers each carrying and operating a devices(s). Each new device adds to the amount of energy consumed.

Devices used in the Digital Age, The Internet of Things, will be an unprecedented volume of smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, servers, totters firewalls, cameras, sensors, drones and cars. The energy needs are increasing by the minute. It places a huge burden on energy resources which are finite. The depleting resources traditionally used to generate power are increasingly under threat from environmentalists as well as the needs of consumers. More pointedly, there is an urgent need to develop alternative, sustainable sources of energy.

Solar, wind, wave and ambient energy sources are being developed at pace. Solar has advanced greatly as countries are now adopting the technology in far greater amount since it first began. Lower costs and more reliability and scalability has given it a special appeal. So to is it’s cost of setup and maintenance. In comparison, wind farms are more costly to setup, operate and maintain. Ambient energy is now being developed, and the possibilities are very encouraging.

Given these inventions and innovations, it makes encouraging readings into our future on this planet earth.

Threats & Opportunities

However, whilst there will be great opportunities for improving the standard of living, there are also new threats to be dealt with. Even so, CyberSecurity opportunities abound because of the new playground of those skilled enough to engage in deviant behavior. The opportunity for law enforcement is huge, especially in robotics designed to deal and encounter physical threats, as well as cyber-threats of bot-nets, ransomeware and intrusion. The influence on good governance is needed as behaviors, rule of law and enforcement can be a cultural shift.

There are opportunities for growth and development. The Digital Age offers many of such, especially in the environment of dwindling resources and aged infrastructure, plants and machinery. Large amounts of effort, costs and bold initiatives are being expended at a time when the wealth of nations are being preserved through strategies of diversification in their respective economies. Saudi Arabia is investing heavily in technology, and so too are the United Arab Emirates whose appointment of a Minister of Artificial Intelligence speaks to their trajectory. For small countries, and under developed Africa tremendous strides are being made as technology meets agriculture and people.

It is an amazing meeting of technology, people and land causing an inflection point on the continent. It will be a place of great opportunity. The opportunity is now. First movers are always Leaders but the challenge will to maintain that leadership which requires foresight, Forward thinking and the will to improve and be better. Africa, the awakening giant!

Bibliography

World Economic Forum, Davos 2016.

Harvard Business Review November-December 2017 Issue

Friedman, Thomas L. The Lexus And the Olive Tree. New York : Anchor Books, 2000, pg. 46, The Democratization of Technology.

http://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/may-july-2017/africa’s-digital-rise-hooked-innovation

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/05/africa-s-digital-revolution-a-look-at-the-technologies-trends-and-people-driving-it/

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/10/digital-paths-for-better-healthcare-in-sub-saharan-africa/

http://theconversation.com/how-digital-technology-can-help-reinvent-basic-education-in-africa-85937

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