By Charles Ash
I find it incredibly ironic that the much touted emancipative powers of technology – the one thing that would liberate society from the drudgery of menial work and give us more time to spend with our families – is now achieving the exact opposite.
When was the last time you attended a family gathering where every single person present didn’t have their face glued to a screen, slaves to the very technology that was ostensibly intended to liberate them?
Technology has not freed us. Heck, it’s like we learnt nothing from the digital-pet craze of the 90s, with those infernal Tamagotchis, as every beep, buzz or imagined murmur from our idolised mobile devices has us scurrying for our handsets to satisfy our growing digital addiction.
Fuelling this digital epidemic is the plummeting cost and soaring quality of Internet bandwidth. Internet bandwidth that once cost a small fortune is now significantly more affordable, and the options for connectivity are rapidly increasing.
With the public getting online in droves, the need for businesses to have a high-quality online presence is vital – providing ease to advertise where people can always be found.
Recent statistics show online shopping in South Africa is soaring to unprecedented heights. For example, popular packaging and delivery service provider, Parcelninja, experienced a 500% increase in orders in 2015 alone – and the growth is showing no signs of stopping.
If e-commerce activity is a barometer of the vitality of a society’s economic health, it would appear the South African economy is in better health than we sometimes perceive it to be. Facilitating this growth is the steady increase of online, tech-savvy consumers.
The upside of having a more interconnected public, who are comfortable transacting online, is further online growth to aid our economy. Even small businesses will want to get in on the action, while many SMME Luddites (who’ve vehemently stuck to their increasingly less effective print adverts) will be looking to get online so they too can tap into the expansive online economy of Google Ads and social media, as well as performance tracking and measurability.
Our innate collective value system places great emphasis on trust, reliability, practicality and good ‘ol value-for-money. How’s technology in 2016 going to deliver on these core fundamentals?
This dilemma has been sublimely solved recently through a crypto-currency called Bitcoin and its underlying technology called blockchain. If anything, 2016 will be the year more people get introduced to the underlying principles of crypto-currency and the blockchain technology that makes it all possible.
Briefly, blockchain creates a framework of trust, so rigidly enforced, expressed and brought to life through hardcore mathematics and open-source co-operative ingenuity, it invariably fills one with hope for the future of this planet. This all means you can now enter into contracts with strangers and have these contracts entered into a public record that can’t be hacked, altered or compromised in any way – and that’s just the start of it.
Expect to see new services which utilise the blockchain technology in currency, contracts, proof of work and any other human scenario which could benefit from the injection of systemic ‘trust’.
Software As A Service (SaaS)
From Gmail, Google Docs and online Client Relationship Management systems to online accounting, invoicing, financial management and project management systems, 2016 will be the year more companies realise using online services is not just convenient, it’s affordable and smart too.
I bet we’ve seen our last installable version of Microsoft Word and Excel, as these mainstay applications make the move online, into securely hosted and universally accessible environments. If anything, they’re about to lose major market share to the Google Docs and other viable applications of this world.
2016 is shaping up to be a ridiculously exciting year in the technology space. Leading the charge will be open-source technology, with mobile and cloud services bringing it all home.
The question is not whether you’re ready or not. The question is: do you have popcorn? You already have a front-row seat because the screen where the revolution will be streaming is already in your hand.
This original thought leadership piece is brought to you by Nashua.