Closing the digital divide

Leah Hu, left, and her brother Leon demonstrate the use of robots for serving purposes or for dirty dishes collection at the family's Royal Palace restaurant in Renesse, south-western Netherlands in May 2020. - AP PHOTO
Leah Hu, left, and her brother Leon demonstrate the use of robots for serving purposes or for dirty dishes collection at the family's Royal Palace restaurant in Renesse, south-western Netherlands in May 2020. - AP PHOTO

Once upon a time, a business’s stability could be linked to its size – the bigger the company, the stronger and therefore less likely it was to fail.

In just a couple of decades, that theory has been stood on its head, and the world has seen giants tumble – not necessarily because they did not follow best practice, but because innovations and technological advances outpaced them.

Technology has revolutionised the world of business in ways that were unforeseen even at the turn of the century. It has transformed – and is still transforming – the way we live and do business. Today’s businesses are increasingly called upon to reinvent themselves, be creative and innovate. Technology has therefore become the great driver in an ever-changing marketplace.

Some jobs are in metamorphosis. From assembly-line operations and self-checkout at the grocery to selecting menu items on a computer screen at restaurants, we are interacting with artificial intelligence on an increasing basis.

Already, robots have entered our workspaces. They may not be like C3PO of Star Wars fame, but consider this: robotic surgery is already a reality, while military machines are programmed and deployed remotely. Bionics have also had an impact on the differently-abled, whose artificial limbs allow them to lead more active lives and participate in sports.

Each time you use your smart device, run an internet search, make an online purchase or even use a machine-readable passport, you leave a data footprint that can be tracked. Increasingly, big data is being used to transform businesses and meet clients' needs. Buying patterns can be monitored to reduce wastage in retail operations, for example, or accounting firms could use analytics for better auditing.

Technological advances have changed the way small and medium-sized enterprises operate: SMEs can now have access to a global clientele. Technology has been a boon not only for online retailers, but for other types of service providers as well.

In fact, it widely accepted that companies which embrace new technologies grow at a faster rate than those which do not. A number of local SMEs have already recognised the potential of technology to help them expand their operations beyond our borders.

In TT, we have the benefit of a highly educated, tech-savvy workforce. As we work towards a transformation of business, we will need to harness our non-energy resources to propel our country into a globally competitive environment.

Can we do this successfully? It may very well depend on closing the digital divide.

This article was submitted by the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce.

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