Digitization: More Than a Buzzword for Corporations and Countries

Digitization: it’s defined as the “conversion of analog information in any form (text, photographs, voice, etc.) to digital form with suitable electronic devices…so that the information can be processed, stored, and transmitted through digital circuits, equipment, and networks.”

Surprisingly, it’s not a new buzzword. In fact, it’s been around for a while. Think Uber and Netflix, Airbnb, and now…the worldwide cryptocurrency, bitcoin. It’s impossible to escape the digitization processes happening all around us, from the corners of dusty offices to the corners of foreign continents.

Within corporations, digitization functions internally to reinvent traditional business processes by developing automated decision making, adjusting data models, and utilizing alternative technologies to address regulatory and fraud issues. The digitization of these processes can lead to lower costs, decreased turnaround times, and enhanced operational controls for the company. These things, in turn, help appease increased consumer demand and meet augmented consumer expectations. For enterprises, this directly translates to tangible benefits including increased interaction with consumers, increased sales, and therefore increased value as a company (which helps them maintain a competitive edge).

This type of digitization can be attributed directly to underlying technologies such as augmented reality, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cybersecurity, and blockchain — the technology that supports cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. Blockchain technologies enable a distributed ledger to decentralize online content ecosystems and allow all users to securely and simultaneously access data. These technologies are not only changing the way people view content via the Internet, but disrupting the way the Internet functions.

When it comes to countries, however, forward-thinking companies such as Cisco are putting digitization to use in a whole new way. “Digitization will be key to how countries maintain global competitiveness, increase GDP growth, foster innovation and create new jobs,” says former CEO of Cisco Systems John Chambers.

By partnering with national leadership, industry, and academia, Cisco aims to accelerate digitization not only across the US, but across the globe — enabling less developed countries to create new jobs and improve quality of life through innovation and education. In a world that’s becoming increasingly connected, such digitization will create benefits for citizens both living in advanced societies, as well as struggling and developing countries. Countries embracing digitization will witness increased job creation, a reduction in the unemployment rate, and a large increase in economic benefits — which then beneficially impacts constituents.

As Mckinsey’s analysis suggests, “capturing the full potential of government digitization could free up to $1 trillion annually in economic value worldwide, through improved cost and operational performance.” For countries like Estonia, this means using electronic identification cards to vote, pay taxes, and access over 160 services online, including unemployment benefits and property registration. Ultimately, the opportunities that digitization provides extends to benefits including digitized birth registration, acquirement of university degrees, and much more. Digitization enables governments to better meet citizens’ challenges and keep up with their expectations. It allows them to achieve policy goals faster and more efficiently. To citizens, the simplification of these processes entitles them to benefits when it comes to areas such as healthcare, taxes, voting, and legal concerns (to name a few).

However, these kinds of opportunities don’t come without their challenges, including but not limited to: cyber security mechanisms (i.e. for e-voting), cultural and structural changes within digital organizations, newfound leadership skills, enhanced talent recruitment, and more attention towards the differences between private and public-sector companies. Exploring and addressing these challenges will lead to even more opportunities, and most significantly — a deeper understanding of how we can tackle growing gaps across global boundaries.