The world is rushing to go digital. What about you? Changes are coming and many innovations have already rocked the boat. Some have cowered in fear while others have embraced the new trends. Will you be one of the scared ones, in danger of drowning in the digital economy wave?
More and more aspects of your everyday life will be going digital. The question is how it will happen in your industry or specialisation and in what form. When computers first came out, for example, many were afraid they would become obsolete. That’s exactly what happened to those who did not react in a more positive way. Some functions were taken over by computers and some doodad connected to them. Who did not lose jobs? Those who took the opportunity to learn the new technology and tried to see what it could do for them or in what other field they could continue to be relevant. It might not have been easy to transition to something else but, humans being who they are, it was often a matter of gritting one’s teeth and powering through with renewed vigour and purpose.
New Channel, New Adaptations
In its barest sense, new tech and going digital just presents new ways to deliver information, products or services. Yes, human beings remain valuable, but in the emerging digital world, the person who can use the new technology stands a better chance of continued employment and relevance than the person who refuses to learn anything new.
A simple example here, albeit a bit simplistic, is what happened to two of the largest film manufacturers—Kodak and Fuji. Both invested in digital early in the game with Kodak partnering with both camera giants Canon and Nikon to provide digital options to their pro-level cameras. Fuji was more conservative at that point, coming out with their own digital cameras which used Nikon lenses. Kodak dropped the ball by not offering better options in the digital space and they soon faced bankruptcy. Their digital cameras with interchangeable lenses were still based on Canon and Nikon technology and they just didn’t come out with a distinctly “Kodak” product. When Canon and Nikon went their own ways, producing top-notch digital cameras, Kodak was left in the dust. Fuji, on the other hand, is now considered an alternative to Canon, Nikon and Sony with its own line of cameras and lenses. Fuji realised early enough that the Nikon partnership it once had was but a learning exercise and learn it did.
Just What Do You Want to Be?
The digital economy definitely means new tech and new ways of delivering products or services. You need to brush up on these and get with the programme. No ifs or buts about it. Fighting it is pointless. Besides, there is a reason why digital has been embraced and it’s not even because tech is sexy. It is because aside from tech being sexy and exciting, it also makes things easier and more efficient for people eventually—on both sides of any transaction.
With tech taking over many formerly human functions (bank tellers, service counter personnel), the humans behind these jobs are free to try and learn other functions, expand their capabilities and look at other opportunities for growth. You, of course, can look at the negative side of this and say the tech took jobs away from people, rendering them unemployed. That is hardly a productive approach to the issue.
The trick really is to start doing the exploring and learning before you even face the possibility of losing your job. You don’t even need to be an all-out evangelist of the digital economy and the technology that goes with it. All you need to be is a tech user savvy enough to find yourself areas of growth you can easily ease into before some change in your organisation or field forces you into obsolescence and irrelevance.
It may seem a bit harsh but change is always like that for the unprepared. The continuing push of the digital economy need not scare you. There are many opportunities tied to it and people should be more concerned with the positive side rather than the threat it seems to be.
Is the digital economy really even a threat? It can be, assuming you don’t prepare for it. If you prepare in as many ways as you can, you need not fear the coming changes and even expect to thrive in it. That is the goal. After all, it’s not about making sure you can keep doing what you’re doing now (wouldn’t you get bored?), it’s about you finding better success. You can only do that if you learn to make the next turn rather than being run over by the digital traffic.
GIGCO Shares Freelance Vision at Mendaki SENSE Career Fair
Change is seldom easy, but events came slowly and quietly in the past decades that even power brokers and well-established entities were caught unaware. Some big names are now echoes of the past while new, once unknown players are driving change and excitement. Different industries and disciplines are being disrupted, forcing those unable to adapt fast enough to the wayside.
While the needs of the public remain generally unchanged, what has changed is how these are addressed and what channels are used to address their needs.
Robotics, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, biotechnology, nanotechnology, 3D printing, materials sciences, etc. are coming together to achieve what was thought to be not at all possible. The potential seems endless.
There are downsides, of course. The technological advances and automation are expected to result in no less than an estimated five million jobs being lost by 2020 in the world’s richest economies. That is even after 2.1 million new job opportunities are created. How then will work be affected and how can people cope? This phenomenon is expected to impact the weaker economies and their populations, and they may have an even bigger challenge ahead of them.
Looking beyond and being prepared
The ever-growing presence and proliferation of mobile devices, as well as the variety of ways to access information and the Internet, facilitated much of the change and served as a true highway to change. Information ex-change has accelerated learning and facilitated academic, professional and even emotional development though virtual meetings and teaching and education opportunities. In a very real way, growth has been equalised due to information being more readily available. Indeed, You-Tube, once thought to be nothing more than an entertainment platform, has become the first option for not a few learners.
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