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Technology Planning and Analysis

Rant: Technocrats and the Myth of Digital's Dominance

Amid technocrats and cowed others it has become an article of faith to state that digitisation is the dominant uber-trend of modern commerce, government and society. Trading becomes algorithmic, purchasing is done from virtual shop-fronts on the web, even currency becomes ones and zeroes rather than coins and notes and the only future lies in automation, collaboration tools and the pan-virtual.

To question this is unthinkable and marks the sceptic out as Icke-like, a member of the Peter Hitchens Tendency, a descendant of Ned Ludd, a pariah, a cap-and-bells and motley-wearing loon more to be pitied than scorned. To the faithful, the canonical text is Marc Andreessen’s 2011 scripture Why Software Is Eating the World in which everything positive is binary and the process of converting physical endeavour to binary code created by a new breed of masters of the universe working from keyboards is inexorable and definitive. Those who understand this will prosper, the theory goes, and those who do not will be consigned to penury, irrelevance and the yesterworld ghetto. And yet…

Libya. Sierra Leone. Nigeria. Mongolia. Panama. Timor-Leste. Uzbekistan. Ghana. Botswana. Tajikstan. Congo. Angola. What do they have in common? They are all among the fastest-growing countries by GDP in the world today. Why? Have they become hot outsourcing destinations? Have they reinvented the search engine? Do they possess the next foursquare? Have they upgraded broadband capacity. Nope, they are growing on the back of coal, gas, copper, iron ore, oil, logistical hubs, textiles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and transportation improvements. The old unfashionable sectors.

Only a fool would play down the role of ICT in wealth creation but as the US has kissed off its older industries, and an American (especially Californian) world view has come to dominate the media and particularly the internet, the notion that digital is the only way forward, the only source of competitive differentiation and progress and other such conference-circuit and think-tank memes, is horribly flawed.

 

Martin Veitch is Editorial Director at IDG Connect.

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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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