Ever thought of the digital divide that exists in today's world? Of the total world population of 6.6 billion, 81 per cent live in less-developed regions. Some of the main regions in these emerging geographies are countries in South-East Asia, Africa and Latin America. Most of the basic human needs related to healthcare, education, poverty, sanitation are still not addressed in these regions.
Computer literacy is not enough for most of the population because there is a need to know what to look for, how to access it and how to use it. It's significant to note that many a time locally relevant information is not available for a majority of the world population. This necessitates leveraging IT smartly for the billions of people at the base of the pyramid.
We must work towards a smarter planet driven by the passion for building systems, infrastructures and processes that underpin how business and society function, are becoming digitally aware, interconnected, and infused with intelligence. This will help evolve smart energy, smart financial and insurance systems, smart traffic systems, smart retail etc.
It is imperative for humanity to transform systems, operations, enterprises and personal lives to take advantage of a smart planet. Realising the potential of a smarter world will not happen automatically. It will not happen without leadership and major change on the part of business, governments, universities, scholars across all disciplines and communities and individuals taking new levels of leadership upon themselves.
Today, almost anything can become digitally aware and interconnected. The emerging computing model is far smarter: it is networked, grounded in open standards and connected to a proliferation of client devices whose heterogeneous systems and applications are no longer a roadblock; it draws on powerful backend systems – not only with unprecedented computing speed, but with advanced analytics and modelling; it is built on virtualisation – enabling us to distribute computing power wherever it is needed, and thus attack the issue of underutilisation in data centres and on desktops; it is based on a new application model – where software is componentised, dynamically reconfigurable and deliverable over the Net as a service, rather than being hardwired to servers; and it also lets us integrate data from multiple sources and parse it in new ways not only to unearth new patterns, but to act upon them in industry-specific processes.
While applying business models used in the developed world to rich populations (top of the pyramid) in the developing world has shown some success, it also ignores a much larger opportunity at the base of the pyramid. This untapped segment could provide the new engine of growth for many clients in this adverse economic situation. It will also give people information at every turn and enable them to make better decisions.
Increased level of collaboration among people, and between people and things, will transform not only how we work, but how we think. However, there is need for removing the barriers faced by the bottom of the pyramid population who feel technology is not a necessity. Increased awareness is needed to help them eliminate their inhibitions towards technology. This calls for collaborative efforts.
In any collaboration, success relies on participation. A flexible, powerful IT environment based upon open standards and interoperability is the foundation of an on-demand business. An open environment spurs valuable collaboration within the ecosystem and provides a springboard for cutting-edge technologies. In support of this vision, the entire IT business ecosystem needs to connect closer, fostering new kinds of symbiotic relationships and contribute. Are we ready?
The author is Vice-President, Public Sector, IBM (India and South Asia)