The roots of the digital revolution stretch back over 2,000 years, to the invention of the abacus and the slide rule, and throughout the following two millennia, tracing innovations in both automated calculation and programmability.
Fast forward to the 20th century, when, over a 10-year period during the 1930s and 1940s, the cumulative innovations of a wide range of scientists and engineers led to the birth of modern digital computing.
The 1960s saw the transition from vacuum-tube-based electronics to transistor-based machines, which ushered in a new paradigm of digital advancement, framed broadly by “Moore’s Law”.
As speed increased and the need for power decreased, the digital world spread from governments to corporations and now you and I.
And at a certain point at the end of the 1990s, the decreased costs of hardware combined with the growing World Wide Web and a consumer-centric software revolution caused an inflection point.
ADAPT TO TECHNOLOGY
All around us now is evidence of the new normal driven by technology and we don’t have an option but adapt.
Observe the changes in our home environment, for example. Ten years ago, if you had access to a laptop, it was probably on loan from your IT department.
That laptop, or your desktop PC, was probably the nicest, most expensive, most sophisticated piece of technology in your home which you guarded viciously from children.
When the computer grew weary due to daily beating at work, it was gradually handed down from the older generation to the younger generation.
This in contrast to the previous times when clothes were the likely items handed down.
Today, the tables have turned: the most powerful technology in the house may be owned by a teenager who needs the “fastest and coolest” computer, phone or tablet in the house to play his or her favourite game.
When that won’t do anymore, it will be handed over to the siblings, and eventually you end up with something on which you, dad or mum, do your personal home stuff on.
That is a total reversal of power in our living rooms in just 10 years.
What happens in the workplace as younger workers continue to replace older workers and as employees of all ages live increasingly digital personal lives?
This is a key issue that all businesses should reflect on to make the most of opportunities within this transitional period.
Just a decade ago, employees got their laptops, desktops, cell phones and Internet access from work.
Today, they have better computers and connectivity at home or virtually anywhere, and they have much cooler personal cell phones than the ones the employers give them.
Generation Y – people born after 1978, typically the newest and youngest crop of office workers – are particularly affected.
This is the first generation to live most of their lives in a digital world, and they think differently about technology.
For them, technology is not for work but for life. They wake up with technology and go to sleep with technology, and as a matter of fact, their definition of work is the brief period during the day when one has to use old technology.
Digital is becoming the New Normal. For more than 30 years, we’ve become increasingly digital, and the moment has arrived that we’re passing the halfway mark to becoming completely digital in almost all areas of our lives. From now on, digital is the norm.
Everything we do from this point forward will have one common characteristic; we will expect things to be digital by design.
The sooner businesses and government services get there, the better; otherwise they are quickly drifting to oblivion.
Sam Wambugu is an informatics specialist; [email protected]; Twitter: @samwambugu2