Enjoy our faster App experience

Digital world opens more minds to democracy

Nothing is beyond an individual's power to intervene in any public discourse today.



By Amit Khanna (Perspective)

Published: Sat 26 Oct 2019, 9:29 PM

Last updated: Sat 26 Oct 2019, 11:30 PM

Welcome to a world where everyone is connected, all the time. Within this always-on ecosystem, grabbing attention is only the first part of a digital world. We have an overload of messaging, information and entertainment, some pushed and some pulled by us through a plethora of devices. In fact, nothing has changed our lives more than the ubiquitous use of mobile phones. According to industry website wearesocial.com, there are 5.11 billion unique mobile users in the world today, there are 4.4 billion internet connections and 3.5 billion people are on social media.
Yet, the digital revolution is as significant as the Industrial Revolution or the Electronic Revolution because it is not just about communication but the transformation of human lives. Digitalisation is the ultimate democratisation. As we have seen, monopoly over information and news is no longer an impediment in society. A single tweet or an image on Facebook or Instagram or a video on YouTube has in the recent past sparked off not only protests but the overthrow of regimes. Wars have started and ended on social media. Space science, health and education are all being reimagined. Nothing is beyond an individual's power to intervene in any public discourse today. History, geography and present and past are all encapsulated in a click of Google search. However, it all boils down to the ability to access, engage and consume a wide spectrum of products and services.
A simple microchip and its more advanced avatars have made several tasks so simple, inexpensive and convenient that we are cramming too much in our normal day. More is following a lot. Multiple usage of multiple devices simultaneously is bombarding our senses relentlessly. No wonder we all suffer from an attention deficit disorder. We have moved from the Attention Age to an Engagement era. Now it's all about monetising this engagement. When too much media is chasing a limited number of eyeballs in a limited time span, there is bound to be a fight for attention. With limited time and fixed per capita consumer spends, the battle for mind space becomes even more acute. It's no longer good to attract a user or buyer or even engage her but it's the ability to monetise attention and engagement, which is critical in today's transactional world. As more and more services are becoming a part of shared economy (Uber, Airbnb, Ola, Paytm, WhatsApp) monetising of content is facing a big threat of not only sharing but illicit downloads and forwards.
Besides the obvious changes in the way we communicate, inform and entertain ourselves, our life is being redefined in more ways than one. E-commerce has pervaded every product or service we consume. Seventy per cent of all travel bookings are online or through applications or other digital means. Medicine and healthcare, from diagnostics to palliative care, are now aided by AI and robotics. Transactions are moving rapidly towards a stage where in a decade, 90 per cent of all payment will be online. Soon, all our home appliances, machines and devices will get interconnected. Machine-to-machine interface will allow new advancements in medicine, education, governance, finance, home management transport, shopping, etcetera. Alongside, IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) will enable smart manufacturing smart cities and autonomous mobility. Artificial intelligence and robotics will help eradicate the ills pervading our society.
What seems an invasion of privacy with a possibility of digital fraud will in the years to come be more secure through several virtual layers of encryption and other electronic and biometric means. Reskilling, which appears a daunting task, will be overcome through smart voice cognitive and self-learning applications. The jobs lost to automation will be filled with millions of other occupations in services and maintenance of the gargantuan digital economy, which will be a massive 5 trillion dollars by 2024. By the end of the decade, this will grow to half of the global GDP.
E-commerce, and increasingly m-commerce, is changing the rules of the marketplace. Brand attributes and salience, even advertising, has changed more in the last five years than in the previous 50 years. How do we bridge the gap between the expectation to deliver impact today, the requests we get to do more and the demands of our customers to see more value? The only way to bridge this gap is with stories. Stories are such powerful drivers of emotional value that their impact can be measured objectively, says marketing guru Michael Brenner. When our minds are constantly pounded with sounds and images, breaking out of the clutter is as important for a prime minister as it is to a farmer selling his produce in the local mandi. An unknown video goes viral while a multi-store struggles to get eyeballs.
The consumer, it has been said, is the Queen. Well, we are soon coming to an age where all the 7 billion-plus people will be rulers. These queens and kings with their own micro-kingdoms will demand new types of court jesters, informers, entertainers, sellers and providers, even sages. Whoever among us is able to fulfill this role effectively will survive either as an individual creator/purveyor or a part of a collective. Any which way, new structures will emerge. Everything from music to news, films to information, grocery shelves to airplanes, homestays, design, education, healthcare, banking and government services will be customised and curated for every single citizen.
- Open Magazine
Amit Khanna is a writer, filmmaker, media veteran and social commentator


More news from OPINION