GLOBALIZATION, VIRTUALIZATION AND DIGITIZATION TAKE EFFECT
BY PRADEEP KHANNA
Three forces have reshaped the way we live, learn and work: globalization, virtualization and digitization. Until recently, there was a fine balance among these forces with each positively reinforcing the others. Now, the fine balance between these forces appears to be changing, resulting in a new world order.
To better understand this, we need to trace how these forces have evolved over the last 25 to 30 years.In the first phase (the 1990s), globalization was the dominant theme. Learning was all face to face. E-learning was emerging. Countries were moving from a local and nationalistic outlook to global thinking. Trade was being globalized.
In the second phase (2000-2010), virtualization became the dominant theme. Globalization continued growing, and these two forces were reinforcing each other. Technology had its ups and downs with the tech crash and subsequent slow growth. These were the times of rapid growth in virtual learning, e-learning, virtual work, virtual teams, offshoring, and global delivery. This phase ended with a severe economic downturn as a result of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008-09.
In the third phase (2010-2016), digitization was the dominant theme, and it continued to drive virtualization and globalization. This was the perfect storm with all three forces reinforcing each other. Digital disruption and digital transformation became buzzwords.
THE DIGITIZATION ERA
The digitization phase has unexpected results.
>> The cost of education (especially higher education) in the third phase continued to rise as demand increased and costs increased without any efficiency dividends.
>> Entrepreneurship boomed with strong focus on emerging technologies. Mindshare and media share started getting dominated by artificial intelligence (A.I.), drones, robotics, driverless cars, virtual reality (V.R.), augmented reality (A.R.), mixed reality (M.R.), wearable technologies (W.T.) and Internet of Things (IoT).
>> The mismatch between jobs and skills started to increase. The value proposition of a university degree came into question. Different pathways to employment/self-employment emerged from start- ups to technology-oriented skills training.
>> MOOCs (massive open online courses) were supposed to disrupt higher education and skills training. They started with fanfare, and the year 2013 was called the year of the MOOCs. E-learning became online learning. But dropout rates in the online environment were very high, giving rise to blended learning.
>> The labor market became more tactical with employers saying we have X amount of dollars to pay for Y set of skills for project Z. And once the project Z was over, it was “Thank you very much; nice meeting you; bye-bye.”
>> Technology-enhanced medical care resulted in increased human longevity. It was no longer about lifelong learning that required dipping in and out of a learning continuum. It also became life-long working.
THE DIGITAL DIVIDE
The three forces of globalization, virtualization and digitization resulted in jobs moving up the skill curve. These forces, working in tandem, drove global economic expansion, albeit from a lowered post-GFC base.
While there was broad economic expansion, the economic benefits were being distributed unevenly both globally as well within country boundaries. Routine jobs were initially moved to emerging economies and, later-on, automated.
Technology became more and more pervasive, and a clear digital divide started emerging. On one hand, we were seeing a demographic digital divide with Gens X, Y, Z and the youngest generation being digitally savvy. On the other hand, we had the Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation not so digitally aligned.
The digital divide was also manifesting itself in other ways. On one hand were the educated class working in technology and service sectors with rising incomes from higher skillsets, although needing to continually re-train and/or re-invent themselves. On the other hand were people working in traditional industries (aka the Rust Belt) who were at the forefront of constant restructuring and ongoing job losses, and the consequent hollowing of the middle class.
Something had to give way. The traditional working middle class asserted itself through the likes of Brexit and U.S. elections. Nationalist forces started asserting themselves. And physical and virtual walls started coming up.
NEW WORLD ORDER DEFINED
This is where we are in 2017. The fine balance among the three forces of globalization, virtualization and digitization is being altered. Digitization is now the dominant theme and is driving virtualization. Globalization is being negatively impacted at least temporarily. The new world order is being defined.
One thing is for sure: Being a futurist is a difficult role in the new world order. We can hardly see a year ahead, let alone 10, 20 or 30 years. The future is emerging, and we have to be nimble and innovative all the time. It’s one thing to say change is the new norm, but it is difficult to be constantly adapting all the time. It is akin to asking the question “Can we have an economy where everyone is innovating?”
Our attention span is now down to eight seconds, whereas the information overload is rising exponentially. Neuroscience tells us our brain strongly prefers single tasking, whereas our job overloads constantly require multi-tasking.
Most future-of-work forecasts are indicating at least 40 percent of us will be working for ourselves, giving a big boost to what is being called the “gig economy.” The sharing economy is also set to grow. But when do Uber-type models emerge in education and training?
Considering the lifelong learning scenarios and digital literacy issues, it is difficult to say whether the time has come for digital universities. However, given the mismatch between jobs and skills, corporate universities are definitely getting a leg up. While we are making good strides in personalized market- places, the holy grail appears to be personalized learning at scale.
While there are a number of emerging technology trends like A.I., drones, robotics, driverless cars, V.R./A.R./M.R., W.T., and IoT, it is not an individual technology trend that will reshape the way we live, learn and work. Instead, the fusion of different emerging technologies will have the biggest impact.
—Pradeep Khanna is the founder & CEO of Global Mindset (globalmindset.com.au) with a strong focus on how globalization and digitalization are reshaping the way we live, learn and work. He is an Adjunct Pro- fessor at a number of institutions in Australia, Singapore and India, and Sydney Chapter President of VRAR Association. Khanna is a regular speaker at International Conferences. Formerly, he served as Global Delivery Leader for IBM GBS Australia and New Zealand. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.