The fully connected age

15 April 2016

Companies large and small need to understand how they will be affected by the digital revolution if they are to remain competitive.

Information technology has taken human beings from the industrial age into the digital age.

Digital Age 1.0 – represented by personal computers, the Internet, and mobile phones – has changed how we live and work. Now, the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, artificial intelligence (AI), and other new technologies and industries herald Digital Age 2.0, the fully connected age, where networks and data will become a basic production resource, alongside land, tools, and labour, and connectivity is a basic human right, readily accessible to all.

Helping enterprises transcend the limits of capacity and resources

In this shift toward a digital economy, ICT technologies are penetrating deeper into traditional industries as they go digital. And, as ICT technologies are being adopted for production systems, they are reshaping enterprises in terms of O&M, organisation, and innovation. In the fully connected age, what matters most to an enterprise will be its strengths rather than its weaknesses.

Enterprises will focus on developing their greatest expertise and delivering it as a service; they will make up for their relative weaknesses through outsourcing. From their inception, future enterprises will be borderless, with a global presence. Fully connected enterprises will organise their business around industry cloud services, which are specially designed to address the unique business systems of each industry.

Enterprises will gravitate toward hybrid cloud architecture. With cloud services, enterprises can be better positioned to innovate their offerings, collaborate with industry partners, and boost their operating efficiency. An example is the banking industry. As finance increasingly moves online, the banking industry will evolve to Bank 3.0, where customers – not financial service providers – will have the upper hand in deciding what services are offered and how. New digital strategies will mean that ICT systems are no longer a supporting tool for bank operations; bank operations themselves will take place in the cloud.

Digital as a strategic engine for national economies

To drive sustainable economic growth, both developing and developed countries have launched national ICT strategies or development plans for their ICT industries. According to a 2015 report by the ITU, 148 countries have published national ICT strategies, taking ICT deeper into industries.

The standards for broadband have been redefined globally:

  • In early 2015, the US Federal Communications Commission defined a new broadband standard, lifting the minimum speed of broadband from 4 Mbit/s to 25 Mbit/s.
  • In November 2015, the UK broadband regulator Ofcom officially set its minimum speed for ultra broadband to 300 Mbit/s.
  • Even Thailand, a developing economy, views speeds of 10 Mbit/s as "yesterday's broadband".

By 2020, all European families will have access to broadband of 50 Mbit/s or even higher.

The better connected economy will have the following six key features

First, real-time, accurate matching of supply to demand will become possible, making over-capacity a thing of the past.

Second, resources can be efficiently utilised so they will no longer lay idle.

Third, real-time data collection and remote data processing will help minimise resource waste.

Fourth, the improved ability to quantify the value of information and a growing awareness of information sharing will end the dominance of money as the sole medium of exchange.

Fifth, old economic silos will break down, as innovation will be crossing the boundaries between industries.

Sixth, user needs will become differentiated at the individual level, and one-size-fits-all mass production will become obsolete.

These waves of changes in the ICT industry actually give us clear pointers to the future.

Humanity will soon enter a fully connected age, where the heartbeat of humanity will be as much digital as physical. With full connectivity, enterprises in every industry will digitise their business systems; those who fail to go digital will perish.