WE SHOULD AVOID RE­PEAT OF THE KO­DAK MO­MENT

Dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion has in­vaded our lives, whether we like it or not

New Straits Times - - News -

DIG­I­TAL meth­ods are in­vad­ing our lives, our busi­nesses and our cul­ture. Dur­ing the mod­erni­sa­tion of Europe where the im­pe­rial mea­sure­ment was slowly be­ing re­placed by the met­ric sys­tem, many re­garded it (dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion) to be de­monic.

It (dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion) will af­fect our lives to the core of ex­is­tence, it was said. Well, guess what?

The dig­i­tal sys­tem has made its way into many as­pects of our lives, which in­clude, but is not lim­ited to, ed­u­ca­tion, medical field, man­u­fac­tur­ing, agri­cul­ture, doc­u­men­ta­tion, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, en­ter­tain­ment, reli­gion and the mil­i­tary.

Mark Zucker­berg and Bill Gates re­cently warned the world to be pre­pared for the age of ro­bots and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence (AI). The next dis­rup­tion wave may be as soon as within five to 10 years.

Imag­ine the im­pli­ca­tions of such a rev­o­lu­tion on digitally ex­posed op­er­a­tions.

For ex­am­ple, we have many com­pa­nies em­ploy­ing thou­sands of em­ploy­ees... these com­pa­nies can eas­ily em­bark on a per­va­sive dig­i­tal strat­egy and just overnight, those thou­sands of em­ploy­ees can lose their jobs. In the name of ef­fi­ciency, that should hap­pen, but with the hu­man­i­tar­ian con­sid­er­a­tion (avoid­ing peo­ple los­ing jobs), it may take some time.

Mean­while, the leaner com­pa­nies may just go ahead.

The in­er­tia of thou­sands of em­ploy­ees is too strong for the ship to sail to an al­ter­na­tive route. On the other hand, a lean-staff struc­ture is ag­ile and able to adapt to changes.

Hence the dig­i­tal dilemma. Do we or do we not make sac­ri­fices to em­brace dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion of ev­ery­thing that we do?

We have learned from the past that such changes are in­evitable. We should avoid a re­peat of the Ko­dak mo­ment. Ko­dak in­vented dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy. In fact, the first photo of Earth was taken by Ko­dak’s dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy. They, how­ever, were too scared to lose their con­ven­tional film sales, which con­trib­uted al­most 90 per cent of their sales.

In the end, the in­evitable hap­pened — they went bank­rupt as dig­i­tal cam­eras swamped global pho­tog­ra­phy be­hav­iour.

There are many other ex­am­ples. We have Uber, for in­stance, which sees tra­di­tional taxi driv­ers fac­ing a se­vere threat of ob­so­les­cence.

Net­flix, Ap­ple TV, Ama­zon TV and iFlix are now ma­jor con­tenders to dis­rupt the tele­vi­sion and cin­ema kings across the globe. On­line news por­tals are dig­ging the graves of news­pa­per com­pa­nies. E-com­merce com­pa­nies in re­tail­ing, such as Ama­zon, Lazada, Zalora and many oth­ers, are keep­ing the high streets slow. What more ex­am­ples do we want?

TUES­DAY, MAY 30, 2017

We also can see that the way to do busi­ness has gone through so many evo­lu­tion­ary phases that in­clude pro­duc­tion spe­cial­i­sa­tion dur­ing the Euro­pean In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion; di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion of skills of post-war Ger­many and Ja­pan; mar­ket­ing-in­ten­sive brand­ing as led by the Amer­i­cans of Madi­son Av­enue; and fi­nally, the de­monic dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion we face to­day.

The fact is, it is hap­pen­ing whether we like it or not.

What we have dis­cussed so far sounds pretty global and we may think that it will take some­time be­fore it reaches our shores (Malaysia). Wrong! It reached, a long time ago — wait­ing to de­vour our con­ven­tional and tra­di­tional ways of do­ing things.

Per­haps, in an ef­fort to con­vince our­selves, we ought to scan for some em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence? Sure, why not? Let us see. Malaysia has a 30 mil­lion pop­u­la­tion and the num­ber of mo­bile de­vices is 60 mil­lion. Malaysia has, on av­er­age, five debit or credit cards per house­hold that fa­cil­i­tate In­ter­net­based com­merce. Malaysia is ranked as one of the top coun­tries in the world for so­cial me­dia us­age. The Malaysian gov­ern­ment has made a con­scious ef­fort to boost dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion via ini­tia­tives such as the Mul­ti­me­dia Su­per Cor­ri­dor, high-speed broad­band and, most per­va­sively, com­puter science ed­u­ca­tion as early as pri­mary school.

So, as you can see, what Zucker­berg and Gates pre­dicted will come true. What we see in

and

will hap­pen.

We are in the age of to­tal chaos, and ev­ery minute of de­nial will make us lose even more by the day — un­less we ride the wave and hope to reach the beach in one piece.

The au­thor is the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of MyCreative Ven­tures, the gov­ern­ment in­vest­ment arm that aims to spur Malaysia’s cre­ative in­dus­try via strate­gic and in­no­va­tive fund­ing through eq­uity or debt in­vest­ments

Malaysia has, on av­er­age, five debit or credit cards per house­hold that fa­cil­i­tate In­ter­net-based com­merce.

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