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With Half of the World on the Internet, Digital Transformation is Redefining ‘Community’

For the first time ever, one half of the world is now connected to the internet.

Digital transformation has taken root on a global scale. And things are only going to get more digitized. A new report from the World Economic Forum (WEF) says that by 2022, 60 percent of the global GDP will be digital. They add that in three short years there will be “very little distinction between the digital economy and the economy, or between digital society and society”.

WEF attributes this to the fourth industrial revolution (“Industry 4.0”), when our computer literate and internet connected global society made the jump to artificial intelligence (“A.I.”), Internet of Things (“IoT”), Blockchain, and large scale digital transformations.

Industry 4.0, they posit, has a great potential to strengthen communities and lift societies out of poverty. But they add the caveat that “success depends on effective collaboration between all stakeholder groups.” If we’re going to see the benefits of all this digitizing, we have to cooperate. So how are different societies and communities cooperatively embracing digital transformation? Let’s look at a few.

The App That Helps Communities With Digital Transformation

To the casual observer, GoNation is ostensibly a handy app that makes it easier for you to find out what’s happening at the restaurants, local shops, and events in your city. It’s an app for the city lover. But under the surface, it’s doing more than just that.

GoNation has a unique business model because they deliberately appeal to four different groups:

  1. The civil servants who plan and govern cities,
  2. The business owners who keep local economies ticking,
  3. The citizen-consumers who support both, and
  4. The enterprise customers who want to reach consumers on a local level.

By connecting local businesses with patrons, the app makes the city easier to navigate and stimulates local economies. By making things easier for the connoisseur of local flavor, they make the app desirable to the consumer. By bringing this cross section of city-dwellers and city-makers together, they seem to have nailed that “effective collaboration between all stakeholder groups.”

The problem so far is they’re only operating in a few cities on the United States’ east coast. Many communities are undergoing city-wide digital transformations, but businesses, consumers and communities who aren’t connected this way will be left in the dust as the beaten path takes on entirely new shapes.

Creating a digital hub where business owners, policy makers, marketers and consumers all connect–in digital and physical spaces–is just the kind of tech use that can breathe new life into communities.

Japan’s Vision For a Digital Society 5.0

Japan has been a global tech leader and “future-world” visionary since middle of the twentieth century. Now, with a large population reaching their autumn years, they’re engineering what they hope will be the next societal digital transformation.

Business and government leaders in Japan envision what they call Society 5.0, which employs robots, A.I., big data, and IoT for a more fully automated society. The idea builds on societies 1.0 through 4.0 (not to be confused with Industry 4.0, mentioned above):

The goal in engineering Society 5.0 is to better serve Japan’s large population of aging and elderly citizens with automated, big-data-driven infrastructure. To achieve this, their plan pinpoints the need for deeper digital transformation in the following arenas: healthcare, mobility, infrastructure, and fintech.

By developing these areas toward greater digital efficiency, Japanese citizens, and especially those over 65, will enjoy considerably safer and easier lives.

Africa Leads With Most Rapid Digital Transformation

Internet use in Africa has grown over 9,942 percent since the millennium, and is the part of the world fostering the strongest internet growth. Tech hubs have been popping up around the continent at a growth rate of 40 percent over the last two years in cities throughout Nigeria, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana and elsewhere across the continent.

Norman Moyo, an executive at Zimbabwe’s mobile banking company Econet, noted that “the largest banks in Africa today are mobile. If you walk into a typical store, you don’t need cash; we pay for anything and everything in Zimbabwe using our phones.”

Like Japan, many African nations are cooperatively moving into a future society built around big-data-built infrastructure and ease of use for the mobile phone user.

Entering the Digitized Near Future

When 2022 arrives, if the WEF is right, the lines between our digital and physical lives will be so blurred they may well not exist at all. With worldwide efforts to cooperatively advance communities into digital transformation, we could be looking at more than just a largely digitized global GDP. We’ll have happier people living longer in tighter knit communities, with regional local flavors in full bloom.