Democratisation of Technology
By: Mr. Vikas Arora (Chief Information Officer- India Mortgage Guarantee Corporation Pvt. Ltd.)
Humankind has been making technological innovations, leveraging available resources to embark upon a new age of products fulfilling needs, solving problems, bringing convenience and opening a new vista of opportunities.
Whether fueled by the discovery of fire, invention of wheel, steam engine, generation of electricity, invention of personal computers or more recently, the internet, an age of transformation has succeeded these innovations. Innovations introduced more recently are being adopted more quickly. The degree of penetration accomplished by telephones in a century was accomplished in less than a decade by cellphones. Consumption spreads much faster today, and so do the benefits, and the competitive advantages that democratically accompany.
There have been three phases of industrial revolution in the past i.e. The first (1.0) was about mechanization using water and steam power(steam engine, factory production machines , textile mills etc), the second (2.0) dealt with electricity, gas and oil (targeting automobiles, airplanes, telephones, railroads etc), and the third (3.0) saw the rise of electronics, telecommunications and computers which helped advancement in fields of space, medicine, biotechnology , automation etc.
Driven by the power of internet, digital technology and cyber, we now witness the Industrial Revolution 4.0 causing cross sectoral disruptions without limiting itself to the Information Technology industry. This aims to bring in sweeping revolutionary changes in our lives. Augmenting the capacity of humankind, harnessing the power of digital has resulted in an unprecedented speed of introduction of new products. Global focus on ‘Go Digital’, cultural reset towards ‘virtual’, affordable devices and connectivity have contributed to the ubiquitous availability of technology and related services. This has altered the way we live, work, interact, consume facilities, receive eGovernance services, to the extent that the United Nations now identifies Digital Literacy as a basic skill like traditional literacy and numeracy. Enabling digitally equipped citizens contributes to further democratization of technology, and the resultant democratization of the services that ride on this technology backbone like knowledge and education, healthcare, eGovernance, travel and hospitality, ecommerce, banking, financial services, insurance.
59% of the global population is connected through the internet, most of which is through mobile while being also present on social media. India is the biggest online market, with 700M users, next only to China.
Technology, a great leveller allows democratization of opportunity, reduces the overall cost of services, raises global income levels and improves the quality of life in general. This is not just limited to consumers ordering an app based cab, making a money transfer, evaluating & purchasing books, custom-assembling pizza toppings, enjoying boutique-designed travel and holidays, self-taught videography, digital on-demand entertainment through OTT platforms, gaming or crowdsourced support services- but
also the completely novel technology-driven business models that democratize entrepreneurship in the digital arena, for all of the above services and more.
We observed this with the likes of Uber, Oyo, AirBnB, Amazon where without owning assets and infrastructure, the power of digital technology-driven business models created new markets, giving more power to both the consumers and the partners.
Banking has been transformed in the last two decades. Initiated by ATMs, this has come a long way allowing financial and capital market transactions at our fingertips.
Social Media tools such as twitter, facebook, instagram enabled a voice for all in the cyberspace. Allowing people to connect, collaborate, highlight, discuss and take up social issues, this brought transparency and participation blurring geographical boundaries of cyber-citizens. Digital communities ideate and fast track innovation together. Clubhouse, a social platform gaining popularity on speed allows live audio discussions on various topics. Facebook and twitter have decided thus to launch their versions of audio discussions. Many successful platforms focus on building and managing user communities, offering operational transparency, flexibility and self-service oriented systems, with real time support, dashboards. The consumers themselves becomes their business-content-generators and torch-bearers of the services.
Impact of Covid 19 on Technology Adaption
The pandemic has shown that technology has been instrumental in enabling continuation of businesses, bringing people together virtually. Tools such as google duo, MS teams, Zoom, Cisco webex etc have been facilitating family reunions and celebrations, while also enabling business meetings and webinars. App and internet-based ecommerce platforms such as Amazon, Flip Kart, Big Basket, Swiggy have changed the way we shopped, enabling touchless delivery of essential items during these times.
On one hand, study opportunities of more than 888 million children worldwide, and 247 million in India were impacted by the pandemic. And on the other, adoption of the online learning platforms fast-forwarded across teachers and students to maintain the momentum on learning. This has enabled continuation of formal and informal learning systems, skill development, employee trainings etc. It is no surprise that Edtech proved to be a dark horse for investors in 2020 garnering a whopping 223.2% rise in funding than in the previous year, with Indian edtech unicorns Byju’s and Unacademy along with soonicorn Vedantu leading the way. Bringing the freedom to choose what, when and how to learn for children as young as 4 years to senior secondary students and life-long learners, brings the valuable democratization in learning.
We live in extraordinary times when technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Internet of Things (IoT), Blockchain, Augmented and Virtual Reality, Intelligent automation, Autonomous vehicles, Quantum computing, Biotechnology etc are being revolutionized to change orbits and create transformational innovations. These are challenging cross-sectoral status quo, empowering entrepreneurs, institutions and governments that are willing to take risk, to write a future that is weaves these technology-led innovations in our lives.
How did ICT/technologies assisted in sailing over the uncertainties?
Seeds of what we are witnessing today were sown decades back when in 1970’s computers were big machines and mostly used by research, government and educational institutions, despite the prediction by Thomas Watson, President IBM in 1943 "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers’.
Contrary to founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, Ken Olsen’s remark in 1977, "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home’, personal computing was a game changer in the democratization journey.
Internet to PC
As the internet-access moved from enterprises to home users, the acceleration towards this digital-democracy was unstoppable. Low speed telecommunications were replaced by fibre-enabled high-speed broadband, now onward towards high speed 5G, as the size and cost of digital devices and infrastructure further reduce.
As they say, ‘With great power comes great responsibility’, thus with the widespread use of technology and the convenience that it brings, it becomes imperative to educate citizens about the risks of cyber space, and responsible mitigation. With so much information at our disposal, protecting oneself against identity theft, cyber frauds, how to differentiate between real and fake news, cybersecurity, stalking, child abuse etc.
Present: VP-IT & CIO at India Mortgage Guarantee Corporation (IMGC) since 2012
Past: Director Technologies at American Express (2003-2012) | AVP IT at GE Consumer Finance & GECIS | Philips | ST Microelectronics | HCL
Vikas is an highly accomplished and seasoned IT leader with over 30 years of global experience in IT strategy and governance, Digital Transformation, Automation, Analytics, Cloud, Mobile, Information and cyber security, creating business value, Cost Optimization , Application Development, setting up Complex IT Infrastructure, IT BCP and DR, Digital Technologies, enterprise architecture blueprint from emerging technologies, strategic outsourcing, Vendor Selection and Management and green-field setup.