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FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION: Being disconnected can almost be seen as a jail sentence soon
THE thing about clichés is that they don't ever seem to go away. For example, the world we inhabit today is vastly different from the one we lived in 10 years ago, but the god-awful truth is that change is the only certainty, and the scariest part of this change is its pace.
It took 38 years for radio to reach 50 million listeners, while it took television just 13 to reach the same number of people. The Internet took only four years to do the same. In 2006, there were 2.7 billion searches on Google per month, but by 2010, the number had grown to over 31 billion.
Technology has sped up our uptake of information to warp-speed levels faster than you can say "beam me up" and this will be a source of great innovation as well as destruction.
Let's consider the economy.
Consider a business owner in 1992 who wanted to grow his customer base. He probably put advertisements in the newspaper, radio, television or had a more prominent listing in the Yellow Pages.
By 2002, he might consider going into the Internet and building a website, but would still rely heavily on the same media of the previous decade, given that the Internet then was still a niche platform.
Today, information flows freely across all facets of the economy through multiple traditional and digital platforms. Businesses have evolved the way they engage their end-customers.
Viral marketing campaigns driven by YouTube are great examples of how far we have come. If speed-to-market was a key success factor in the past, the Internet has probably increased that ten-fold.
Ten years from now, I would hazard a guess that everyday transactions would have advanced to a whole different level. Making payments at street vendors with our smart phones may seem novel today, but will likely be commonplace in the next decade.
The makcik in the kampung may still be making batik, but she could be interacting with customers over a teleconference half a world away and sending a virtual design for draping all without leaving her home.
With the progress made on e-economy, this will be a reality earlier rather than later as consumers demand it and businesses respond.
On the technology front...
Just 20 years ago, the Sony Walkman was considered hip and one of the most sophisticated gadgets of that day. If you could look forward just 10 years, would you have guessed that you could be walking around with more than 5,000 songs in a device the size of a small mobile phone? Or that our phones would fit into our pockets and function as entertainment gateways, organisers and work tools?
Today, smaller is better and multifunctional devices are the rage. The Internet permeates every aspect of our lives.
Driven by ever-advancing technology, the business models of today may no longer be relevant in just a couple of years.
It is the enterprises that have the vision and the courage to take pioneering steps that will lead the charge. Looking ahead, I imagine a world where technology is omnipresent and being disconnected could almost be seen as a jail sentence.
The social aspects...
In 1992, it was commonplace for people to make efforts to meet friends or chat for hours on a landline. Twenty years on, we stay in touch with SMS, Facebook, Skype and WhatsApp. We get a lot of our news through online channels and updates though Twitter.
Digital technology can complement business and interactions in powerful ways, but it will not replace the need for the personal touch.
More importantly, it is the socio-economic aspects of development that bring the greatest benefits. Enabling rural communities with technology tools, connectivity and new business models might just be the answer to drive greater self-sufficiency and a better standard of living.
The simple concept of micro-sourcing and cottage industries when combined with technology opens up a whole new world and becomes a viable platform to uplift the poor. Our measure of success is going to be the ability to navigate this delicate dance of create and destroy. We must strive for a smooth transition, prevent chasms whether economic or social and most of all, embrace this change as another cycle in our evolution.
In the meantime, make sure your warp drive has been serviced. Otherwise, you might not live long and prosper.