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The Digitalization Gap between Science Fiction and Reality

The Digitalization Gap between Science Fiction and Reality

Let’s kick off with a clear statement: Digital transformation doesn’t mean to have digital tools, drones, flying cars and robots everywhere. Or where can I add AI into my morning routine?

One of the bigger mistakes is to create digital tools or digital transformation plans without knowing what is happening, without talking to the user, without talking to the stakeholders involved in the digitization process, without thinking in the impact, without thinking if it makes sense at all. You can read the article about the “Integrated Reporting for Technology and AI” here.

I like to mention the example of Pampers, the company which is producing and commercializing  diapers. They have created two years ago, a diaper with a sensor, and a mobile app to tell the parents that the diaper was full and it is time to change it. Well, here we have several non-sense arguments.

  • First one, you add electronics into a daily waste (how to handle separation of electronics and plastic and cellulose).
  • Second, you add a radiation exposure for your baby which is not needed at all.
  • Third, the pampers diapers already are so good, that they can support more than 12 hours without changing them.
  • Forth, when the diaper is full, you will notice immediately (we can see it, we can feel it, we can smell it), as human beings we have five senses to recognize what is happening around us.
  • Fifth, are you so addicted to the mobile phone that you are not looking a your baby? Only a mobile app can tell you what is happening with your baby? In case, you, as a parent you are at work, so you don’t care, because some else will take care of your baby. And if you are with the baby, you will notice.

Maybe, this is the answer why there is a lack of digital adoption, or a lack of successful digital transformation projects. Maybe, it is because they are designing the technology or the innovative solution alone, without looking at the reality, or talking to the “impacted” users.

Sometimes, brainstorming sessions are very dangerous, because not all the actors are there represented, and because maybe the topic is not the real topic to brainstorm in. Countries, cultures traditions, ways of working and people are different, so, maybe one solution for one country cannot be applied to another country.

For instance, in Agriculture (now, called Agritech), you cannot compare The Netherlands (very industrialized agriculture methodology) with the Nord of Spain, where still the agricultural process and way of working is not full industrialized.

  • Roadmaps for digitalization should be different, and solutions as well.
  • Users and stakeholders supply chain and value chain should be involved in the discussions, not only the “director”. Everyone has to be there.
  • Create open discussions about impact on our planet, about impact on the way we are working, impact on green technology, about impact on our future generations, not only process and science fiction ideas.
  • What type of business is it? Startup, SMEs or Corporate? The digital solution will vary depending on the size of the organization.

Adding sensors inside the Earth in our daily agriculture activities is not the solution, you can think further and think about non-intrusive, easy to use and easy to deploy. You can add “satellite image recognition” technology to analyse plagues, earth humidity, or you can use a simple small machine to test the level of antibiotics or pollution in your production.

Can you imagine our planet full of sensors? full of plastics and metals everywhere? As we are talking about green technology, green economy and how we can remove micro-plastics from our food and animals. We are creating technology with such polluted and toxic materials to add into our Agriculture mechanisms to better automatize our food production processes. Can we stop for a moment? Can we start thinking about what is our goal?

In one hand, we have to produce high quantities of food to feed our increasing population, and in the other hand we have to protect our planet. Both mandates are clear, and both mandates have to become intersectional to be able to work in parallel to the same purpose.

The same gap is happening when trying to bring digital tools as fintech in Africa, digital tools designed in a room somewhere in US or Europe and thinking how cool this gadget is. Well, this is not working that way either. You can watch a webinar we organized last year with our Community Member Emmanuel Mudahemuka about how to work with legacy in Africa.

Another intersection is the lack of population in rural areas, the digital transformation of agriculture for instance, can help the migration of professionals back into rural areas. There is an imperative need  that “technology designers”, “innovation hubs” and “digital professionals” have to be closer to the users and stakeholders of the supply chain and value chain, instead of being far away, alone, working from a desk in the city.



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