Digital Transition -The term "Digital Transition" describes the process all organizations must go through in the 21st Century, as they leverage new technologies that provide new options for Applications, Equipment, Processes, and Networks that make them more effective. In contrast, the term "Municipal Wireless" is limiting. It puts the network technology ahead of the application and process changes that drive the business case.
From Analog to Digital - A Long, Strange Trip
I enjoyed writing this post this morning (see Digital Adolescents Stuck in Digital Puberty). It began a discussion on what I think is a seismic shift in our society, one that gets scant coverage considering the enormity of its implications. Technology acts on society: it wins over some converts, but others fight the change and seek to preserve the status quo.
Technology drags us all into the 21st century, changing society along the way, but its pull has greater impact on "early adopters" than on "laggards." There are those who resist, but also those who are left out because of economics or education. When those who wish to participate are left out, we call it a Digital Divide. A staggered rate of technology adoption leads to a society out of balance.
And the less attention is paid to the Digital Divide, the wider the gap gets. In the US, Europe and elsewhere around the globe, efforts to address such inequalities get labeled as Digital Inclusion or e-Inclusion, or eclusion, take your pick.
Why does it matter? Digital Inclusion and Technology Adoption deserve your attention for two reasons.
First, a healthy society requires that its members all have access to the tools necessary for success, whether its health care, education, jobs, or broadband and digital technology - if there are differences, they should be minimal. Different segments of society should at least be on the same planet when it comes to technology - even better if they are on the same page. The pace of change is such that those who get left behind technologically these days, out of choice or lack of access, are really, really left behind.
Second, telecommunication networks increase in value the more nodes (phones, computers, etc.) are connected (aka Metcalfe's Law). It's corollary, Reed's Law, states that the value of social networks increases exponentially the more members are in the network, because of the value of sub-networks. In any society, people naturally organize themselves in networks. Just look at MySpace and FaceBook to better understand the value that society imputes to social networks.
The Bottom Line: Networks organize and drive today's economy and society. If you're not on the network, increasingly, that means that you're irrelevant. Our leadership underestimates the impacts that digital networks have and resists changes to our society, often to our collective detriment.
Our political leaders today grew up in a different world. The average age of members in the US Senate is 62, and with leadership based on seniority, many committee chairmen are over 70.
A person who is 70 years old this year would have graduated high school in 1955, which was a big year in the history of computers:
1955 Steve Jobs is born February 24, 1955
The old men of computing, inventors of the Apple Macintosh, Microsoft Office, and the World Wide Web, were all born in 1955, when our political leadership was graduating from high school, slide rules in hand. When they graduated:
* Computers ran mostly on vacuum tubes - very expensive large mainframes that required highly skilled operators - there was no such thing as a PC or Mac, much less a laptop or a tablet PC
This list could go on and on - the point is that life was simpler then, in many ways ... the world has changed immeasurably in the past 50 years, and in big chunks, decade by decade. The really big digital impacts didn't even begin until 25 years ago, when our leaders were well into their 40s.
Many of those who resist change and deny its significance either don't understand it fully, underestimate its impacts, or simply resent the pace of change. We won't go back to the way things used to be, there is no putting the toothpaste back in the tube. The world of the last century is gone forever, but many who vote continue to elect leadership that looks backward instead of to the future.
Only when young people begin to outvote the old, when the voices of Progress outvote the voices of Conservatism, when those who value technology stand up in the political process to demand technological sophistication from their leaders - only then will we see informed lawmaking in Washington, DC.
Until then, we'll have to look to local government, where younger people have a louder voice, for political leadership. Be sure to see TechPresident to track the twin issues of technology and the presidential race, if this posting hits home.
Posted on December 10, 2007 at 10:32 PM
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