Like the world foresees a new US Congress and a new administration, we need a strategy to reinvent and rebuild communities, industries, businesses and nations. As we battle the cascading disruptions of a global pandemic, economic tensions, climate-related crises and turmoil over racial injustice, technology should be part of a solution – but technology alone is not enough. not.
To more evenly distribute economic opportunities and resilience, we need to democratize “technological intensity”, a combination of technological and human skills, including among citizen developers. This so-called intensity is made up of three dimensions: adoption of the technology, the ability of individuals to use it, and their confidence in the organizations that deploy it. Tools from cloud computing to AI should be in the hands of every knowledge worker, frontline worker, organization and public sector agency around the world.
Today’s farmer flies a low-cost drone over agricultural fields, sending data back to the farm, where the smart cloud and smart edge can provide instant analysis of where moisture is lacking. or insects create hot spots. The plant operator is now increasingly relying on next-generation skills to discern the drift of a drill bit to ensure precision manufacturing. Physicians, regardless of their location, come together virtually using augmented reality to examine a patient and share images and instantly receive information from the data.
The next decade of economic performance for every organization will be defined by the speed of its digital transformation, with technology and skills working together creating competitive advantages. As such, technological intensity, like electricity, will fade into the background, becoming an integral part of society.
Research by Microsoft and Keystone underscores the critical role of investing not only in technology, but in creating an architecture that can enable anyone to access opportunities across divisions and barriers, expanding the capabilities needed to spur the innovation desperately needed for reconstruction.
To succeed in this time of unprecedented turbulence, we will need to think boldly and move beyond traditional approaches. The current crisis demands innovation in the public and private sectors and in all geographic and social communities. This not only requires developing individual skills, but also providing an architecture that ensures that the necessary tools, data and technology are widely accessible and made available in traditionally isolated groups and geographies. The importance of technology and innovation is not a new idea. But it is the widespread and intense use of technology and tools by people that is the crucial ingredient.
Over the past few years, the business and tech sectors have talked about empowering citizen developers, defined rather narrowly as legions of individuals empowered to drive innovation from data, technology, and intelligence. tools that are easy to build and deploy. These citizen developers do not replace professional software developers, but augment them and build on their innovations. Citizen developers are essential because the potential for data and software innovation is enormous in any organization.
Citizen developers amplify the impact of professional software developers, and vice versa. Professional developers have built Excel and Visual Studio, but workers of all types have been trained to take advantage of these innovations. Overall productivity improved as a result. In today’s cloud age, we need both again. Relying on traditional technological development resources alone will never be enough to realize the myriad opportunities that exist.
Conducted in more than 130 leading companies, our research shows that those with a more integrated technological and human resource architecture have benefited from more widespread innovation and have outperformed others, in sectors as different as manufacturing, health care, retail and financial services. In fact, tech-intensive firms have doubled the growth rate on average of low tech ones. Essentially, these winning companies broke traditional barriers, innovated more, and grew faster.
The impact of this approach could extend well beyond the private sector. Dartmouth economist Diego Comin and economist Bart Hobijn developed the Cross-Country Historical Adoption of Technology dataset, looking at the period in which 161 countries adopted 104 different technologies, from steam to PCs. Based on this analysis, Comin argues that the differences between rich and poor countries can largely be explained by the speed at which they adopted industrial technologies. But just as important, he says, is the intensity they used to put these new technologies to work. Even countries that were slow to adopt new technologies could catch up if their populations had access to them and learned to use them to solve the problems to which they were closest. Are the technologies just there, or are they available and easy to use for a skilled workforce to get the most out of them? The difference is technological intensity.