Technology and the advances therein have inarguably had the greatest impact on our society and modern business, enabling advancement, the simplification of arduous processes and tasks, and innumerable achievements previously unthought of. The technological framework upon which most of our businesses rest have become as much second nature as breathing. But will the continuing advancement of technology – termed the 4th Industrial Revolution –translate into the continuing advancement of business and society as a whole? Anton Cabral, Managing Executive of LRMG Digital Agency, takes a look at the 4th Industrial Revolution, Digital Inequality and the Digital Divide and the effects of these on digital information products, solutions and platforms and the responsibility of businesses today and into the future.
What is the 4th Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, as it is also known?
“The first Industrial Revolution was about harnessing steam power so that muscle could be replaced by machines. The second was driven by electricity and a cluster of inventions from the late 19th century onwards – including the internal combustion engine, the aeroplane and moving pictures. A third revolution began in the 1960s and was based on digital technology, personal computing and the development of the internet. Industrial Revolution 4.0 will be shaped by a fresh wave of innovation in areas such as driverless cars, smart robotics, materials that are lighter and tougher, and a manufacturing process built around 3D printing,(The Guardian)1.”
From a purely technological standpoint, Industry 4.0 promises profound change and great promise, as did the last revolution. But as with each Revolution before this fourth, the polarising effects on income and wealth have created many divides and great inequality within societies around the globe: “The richest stand to gain more from the introduction of new technology than those in poorer sections of society, according to a report which warns that policymakers may be required to intervene to tackle the widening inequality,” (The Guardian)2.
A report3, published by the World Economic Forum, emphasises the concerning impact that Industry 4.0 will have on business, including the following:
“The greatest impact of division and inequality that the 4th Industrial Revolution poses for those in business, and therefore our greatest responsibility,” says Cabral, “is in terms of Digital Inequality and the Digital Divide.”
The Digital Divide is the divide between those online and those offline, “an economic and social inequality with regard to access to, use of, or impact of information and communication technologies (ICT),” (Wikipedia)4
The concept of the Digital Divide surfaced in 1995 with the disparity between those who had Internet access and those who didn’t. Internet access is now much more common, but this does little to bridge the divide: “Inequality of access if important, because it is likely to reinforce inequality in opportunities for economic mobility and social participation,” (DiMaggio)5. “Technology 4.0 threatens to exponentially widen that divide for those without access, those without the ability to use the information and communication technologies they are accessing,” warns Cabral.
It is thus about so much more than access, as an important aspect of the Digital Divide is not just access to the Internet, but “socially structured variation in the ability of persons with formal access to the Internet to use it to enhance their access to valuable information resources. Among the increasing number of Internet users, how do such factors as gender, race, and socioeconomic status shape inequality in ease, effectiveness, and quality of use? Does access to and use of the Internet affect people’s life chances?” (DiMaggio). This inequality caused by the Digital Divide is known as Digital Inequality.
Digital Inequality emphasises that the relationship between social inequality and the Digital Divide is reciprocal: the more entrenched social inequality, the wider the Digital Divide; and the Digital Divide widens exponentially once impacted by social inequality – with those on the losing end of the divide being sectors of the society impacted by poverty, lack of education, lack of infrastructure and service delivery and other accessibility issues that those on the other side of the divide take for granted.
The Digital Divide and, more specifically Digital Inequality, is therefore not just a business issue, but a social issue. At the World Economic Forum meeting early this year, the Archbishop of Canterbury said the changes likely to be brought about by Tecnology 4.0 required not just an economic, but also a spiritual response. “This is not just about money, it is about what it is to be human,” (The Guardian).
“How do we ensure these advancements really improve the state of the world?” asks Cabral. The answer lies in Disruption-Innovation.
Disruption is about creating affordable, impactful digital assets and solutions and products. “Massification, as a disruptive strategy, means it is not just about people within companies; it is broader than that – mass is about the people that are not part of our 10% economy. If you create a need within the mass, one can respond with a solution and product that delivers en masse,” argues Cabral.
The audience for massification is three-fold:
“The call to action created by the 4th Industrial Revolution and the consequential Digital Divide and Digital Inequality within the community of these three audiences is the basis for our existence as a Digital Agency. It is our why,” says Cabral.
“What lies ahead in our future technological development is clearly uncharted territory, replete with its own set of unique snares and dragons, regardless of the words we use to describe it. The coming decades of human technological innovation represent a social and political problem, not just a technological one, and demand expertise in finding social and political solutions – not just the vapid pontifications of professors and economists,” World Economic Forum, founder and executive chairman, Klaus Schwab.
LRMG Digital Agency represents the expertise answerable to the social and political problem, the call to action emerging from the ever-increasing Digital Divide and Digital Inequality. While the Digital Agency services the first audience, it is the servicing of the second and third audiences, the broader community of reach that would enable the most impactful answer to this call to action.
This “broader community of reach is especially important in a country like South Africa, where the divide between the first audience and the second is so great. This second audience is our direct target. Producing products and solutions that meet the very differing needs of these two audiences is our response to the Digital Divide and Digital Inequality as the LRMG Digital Agency,” says Cabral.
The Digital Agency targets the second audience by enabling businesses that service the consumer en masse: “Our focus is, therefore, always development, not implementation,” says Cabral. And this is where the third audience comes in: “In our work with publishers and companies that disseminate already-developed digital solutions, and with DigitalCampus, our online learning platform collaboration with Wits University, our emphasis is on expert solutions to the problem of Digital Inequality and the Digital Divide, as it is this audience that holds the responsibility of disseminating our products and solutions to as broad an audience as possible, especially those in the second category.”
An important point, and central to LRMG Digital Agency’s vision of becoming a digital capability benchmark, is that “creating and disseminating digital products to bridge the social divide is akin to providing an impoverished community with a smartphone, which is useless without the means to buy airtime and data to operate it, rendering the technology useless. Our mission as LRMG Digital Agency is to reduce digital inequality by improving the reach and impact of content.”
“It is therefore an essential aspect in mitigating the Digital Divide that this dissemination and enablement of connecting our massified digital solutions and the second category of audience is not only the remit of companies and departments that disseminate ready-developed digital solutions, but can be threaded through each and every business’ Corporate Social Initiative/Responsibility (CSI/CSR) initiatives. We at LRMG Digital Agency have the vision of enabling the meeting of this responsibility, because while companies cannot meet the needs of the second audience with an animation that costs R40,000, they will be able to meet these needs with the same product, at the same standard, massified and brought down to a cost of R4,000.”
“The call to action that the Digital Divide urges is therefore not just a production of affordable and impactful assets, products and solutions, and not just the dissemination of these, but an enabling of accessibility to digital solutions by the largest possible portion of the population. And this can only happen through a fundamental shift in the target audience of information, which digitising content targets, and an empowerment of this target audience to access the information through breaking down the barrier of the financial inaccessibility of information,” says Cabral.
The importance of contextualising LRMG Digital Agency within the 4th Industrial Revolution serves as the introduction to the WHY of the Digital Agency and is the first step to introducing you to the exciting new solution offering from LRMG Performance Agency. In next month’s LRMG Express we will take a closer look at WHO and WHAT LRMG Digital Agency is as part of our official launch of the Agency.