Nine business bets for our emerging digital economy

Faster. Image sourced from Shutterstock.com

Marek Kowalkiewicz, Queensland University of Technology

Every year seems like an accelerated version of the previous one. Every year we think we have reached the peak and then following year comes, paling everything before it.

Will 2016 be the same? Every available sign suggests so. We might be worried about a potential new bubble burst or slowdown on stock markets, but this will not stop new ideas, business models, or new opportunities from emerging.

Here are my nine bets – what will change in 2016 in business, technology and social.

Doing the same thing over and over again will never take you to new places

In 2016, we will see more and more organisations focus on revenue resilience and look for new markets and opportunities. This will require oppositional thinking – looking for radically different ways of running business, for instance: paying your customers rather than charging them. Environmental sensing teams will be formed at many organisations with a goal of becoming aware and understanding the potential impact of new trends on their organisations.

Resolution for 2016: set up a team to do “environmental sensing”.

The gig economy train is not slowing down

Newly emerging business models will only get stronger in 2016. The gig economy will continue and will go well beyond house rentals and transportation. We will see at least one new global player following the Peers Inc. model – providing means for individuals to offer their products and services in an easier way. And the next dominant player will likely come from Asia, a market that has remained largely untapped.

Resolution for 2016: consider becoming a platform for the gig economy.

Delight your customers by predicting and meeting their needs ahead of time

We will see a rise in proactive organisations, that is, organisations that are able to offer products and services the moment the need for them arises often even before the customer realises there is a need.

We will see the first commercial examples of predictive delivery (“your product is at the doorstep, would you like to buy it, or shall we take it back?”). And after the easy ones are demonstrated and customers get used to it, other – often unexpected – players will follow: among others we will see the first truly proactive governments. All of it thanks to progress in digital identity.

Resolution for 2016: redefine your products and services, become a truly proactive organisation.

Welcome your digital personal assistant. One that really assists, not just pretends to

Digital identity will enable not only new organisational behaviour, but also facilitate evolution of other technologies. Digital personal assistants will continue to evolve. They will not only be able to tell you where the film you want to see is playing on the weekend or remind you about a doctor’s appointment, they will be able to pay your bills, switch electricity providers or truly support you in your work, like a real assistant (human-agent augmentation).

Resolution for 2016: get more things done by delegating to your digital PA.

If the world around you moves faster than you do, the end is near

Incumbents in asset-intensive industries will be challenged by technology advances even more than in previous years. The Janicki Omniprocessor will enable entire communities to go off the sewage and water grids. High capacity batteries in garages and self-driving cars will enable individuals to trade electricity outside of the grid. Telecommunication providers will see more and more pressure from meta providers. The cord-cutting movement affecting cable TV will spread to other industries.

Resolution for 2016: if you are an incumbent in your industry, focus on environmental sensing to avoid surprises.

Digital capital is an enabler of social good

Existing technologies will mature and be used in critical situations. Government agencies, emergency responders and disaster management will access Periscope and Facebook Mentions live streaming to gather intelligence. We will retain control of our digital selves and at the same time be able to “share our digital capital” whenever it may be helpful. This digital mindset will also be applied by organisations, looking for options to digitise idle assets using new technologies.

Resolution for 2016: have a close look at your assets. Can they deliver new value in the digital economy?

Hardware will become the new app

More and more individuals will find it easy to join the “maker culture”. Platforms like Arduino or Raspberry Pi will allow more people to rapidly prototype hardware solutions. We will see examples of Internet of Things applications that are finally compelling and useful to individuals. Environments like Apple’s HomeKit will only add to the momentum. On the other hand, platforms like Kickstarter will pave the way to efficient prototype-to-product processes.

Resolution for 2016: join and support a makerspace.

Build a community and a product (or service) will come

We will see more businesses starting in an unorthodox way: by first creating a community and only after that realising what product or service they could offer. Digital communities will become the new unfair advantage in every industry.

Resolution for 2016: identify and invest in your communities.

Digital intelligence is the new black

Society will continue to learn how to deal with digital economy trends. We will move from digital literacy through digital behaviour to digital elegance. And we will see growing interest in cybersecurity, despite numerous governments trying to discourage citizens from using data encryption tools.

Resolution for 2016: invest in digital literacy and development.

The Conversation

Marek Kowalkiewicz, Professor and PwC Chair in Digital Economy, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

What a ‘digital first’ government would look like

The digital economy means people are no longer passive consumers. Image sourced from Shutterstock.com

Michael Rosemann, Queensland University of Technology

Australia’s new prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has announced what he calls a “21st century government”. This article is part of The Conversation’s series focusing on what such a government should look like.


When discussing the digital economy it’s easy to focus on technology, and its exponential uptake.

In reality, there’s been a shift from an “economy of corporations” to an “economy of people”. While previous technologies were largely dedicated to automating and streamlining business processes, digital technologies allow active citizen contributions.

In the economy of people, citizens are no longer passive consumers, but come with their own digital identities, maintain personal networks that give them the ability to influence, and contribute data, opinions and even apps to the economy.

The public sector, like any sector, is not immune to the serious implications of the digital economy. As a consequence, future governments have to keep up with the increasing digital literacy of their citizens and adopt new ways of thinking. This demands a “digital mind” that is technology-agnostic, but focused on the impact of the digital economy.

In the economy of corporations, governments, like most organisations, could rely on largely reactive service provision. Citizens would approach the government via offices, call centres or web pages and government services would be provided in response. A proactive government, however, is able to react to citizens’ life events without being prompted. This could be facilitated by the provision of data from third parties or by proactively providing services based on available data.

An example would be age-based welfare payments. Instead of relying on literate citizens who have awareness of government services, a proactive government would offer such services when they become relevant to the citizen. One step further is the vision of a predictive government. In this case, the government would offer services before a life event even occurs. Such services could be related to health care, (un)employment or (upcoming) disasters.

What does a ‘digital mind’ look like?

Future governments will have to take part in the life of their citizens, as opposed to citizens taking part in the life of the government. This will require focusing on the following emerging trends.

Share of digital attention

“Share of digital attention” captures the relative time a citizen dedicates to a specific provider. Digitally minded corporations such as Google or Facebook have a detailed understanding of their share of digital attention, and how this leading indicator contributes to lagging indicators such as revenue. Most non-digitally minded companies do not measure it. Governments can compete for this share of attention by building mobile applications that bring citizens closer to government services. Proactive or predictive services can help them channel traffic away from web pages to mobile solutions.

Digital signals

Digital signals are the information that is streamed from citizens to organisations. In the health sector medical device sensors allow citizens to share digital data with trusted health experts. Instead of patients (physically) coming to health care providers, they let their data travel and enable medical advice. This trend will most likely flow on to other sectors of the economy leading to an increased willingness to share digital signals with trusted providers. Citizens would no longer look for services, but simply share life events (e.g., my house is flooded, I lost my job, I am a first time parent) and expect a government service in response.

Digital identities

The economy of people will see the emergence of citizens who “bring their own data”. In such a world, a drivers license would simply be an attribute of a citizen and not a separate entity. Governments have grappled with their role in providing platforms for such digital identities, but it’s likely citizens will look for a single digital identity that can be used across all interactions spanning private and public sector providers. A prominent example is Estonia’s digital identity solution, which supports its citizens in daily interactions such as public transport, voting or picking up e-prescriptions.

The economy of things

We predict the emergence of an economy of things, with wide participation of smart devices in economic and societal activities. This could include smart cars notifying of accidents, smart homes asking for help in case of a flood or bushfire, or robots sharing information or triggering further activities. The emergence of such G2T (government-to-thing) relationships will require entire new channels and interaction patterns as “things” cannot read web pages.

The ambidextrous government

Whatever the future will hold, the government, like any corporation, needs to establish innovation capabilities. This will demand new explorative, design-intensive capabilities in addition to the dominating ability to incrementally improve exiting services and processes.

Explorative, innovation services consist of environmental scanning (what are emerging technologies), ideation (how could these be utilised), incubation (testing and prototyping) and implementation (rapid, agile, scalable roll-out). An ambidextrous government is characterised by low innovation latency, that is, the time it takes to convert emerging opportunities into available government services.

This skill set will require changes in existing recruitment practices to attract people who are driven by what is possible in the future as opposed to by what is broken today.

The Conversation

Michael Rosemann, Professor of Information Systems, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.