Intensity of Use of Technology, Not Just Access, Is What Creates Economic Opportunity

As we enter 2018, it’s worth reminding ourselves that digital disruption is real. Need proof? The Next Economy will be driven by these emerging technologies: artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, drones, big data, internet of things, 3D printing, genetics and blockchain.

These technologies are alredy here, and startups and maverick corporations are leading the way to a better future through the implementation of these technologies in various industries.

In my role as President of the Baja California Innovation Cluster, I’m tasked with finding and creating ways to create economic opportunity through the diffusion of emerging technologies. When I put my consultant hat on, I help business leaders understand these technologies and how they can create economic opportunity for their businesses and communities. When I have my entrepreneur hat on, I’m driving the application of these technologies to change the status quo and create a better future.

With that said, it’s no a secret the question of technology diffusion and its impact of economic outcomes has always interested me. Plus, I’ve operated globally and seen how different cultures adopt technology and new ideas. And living in the border city of Tijuana and operating in a country, Mexico, that is a laggard in the adoption of new technology has given me great perspective on this topic.

What factors determine how a company or country creates economic opportunity for its employees and citizens through technology?

There are those who reject technology outright, and then there are those who treat it as an add-on. Both approaches are wrong. Business leaders and entrepreneurs have to understand that just because technology is cool doesn’t mean people will adopt and use it; human nature is to blame for that.

For example, a few years ago I was part of an Israeli born startup that decided launching in Mexico was a better option than the U.S.. Why, I asked the CEO did they want to do that. His answer was not very strategic, along the lines of “Mexico is a fringe market and fresh for the taking”. My answer to him was: Yes, but mexicans are laggards; they don’t adopt technology fast.

Behaviors, habits and culture matter when it comes to the quick adoption and use of technology.

I always come back to this story when discussing innovation through technology with entrepreneurs and business leaders who want to launch new products and services in Mexico. Because an organization’s capabilities become its disabilities when disruption is afoot, and most companies are not proactive in adopting and using new technology; as I discussed with Lewis Farran of Gartner in Mexico.

There are many obstacles any country and company has to create economic opportunity through technology. One is adoption. For example, Mexico’s cultural reliance on “tropicalization” is one culprit for adopting new technologies; for example: a cheap mexican version of Nike sneakers.

The other is what all countries, states and companies have in common: how intensely they use technology.

I found the following research note in Satya Nadella‘s, CEO of Microsoft, book Hit Refresh:

diffusion of technology economic opportunity

The person Satya is mentioning is Dartmouth economist Diego Comin, who has studied the evolution of technology diffusion over the last two centuries in countries across the world.

As the note says: Intensity of use of technology, not just access, is what creates economic opportunity.

With that said, in the Next Economy you’re either a digital business or a dead business; so it’s best you start evaluating what your organization’s approach to technology adoption is if you want to avoid a slow death.