Risking Irrelevance: Why businesses can't ignore emerging technology

Alex Pryor
Head of Digital Innovation
Automatic Summary

Future of Business: Embrace Emerging Technologies

Welcome to a discussion on Web 3.0 technologies and their applications set to revolutionize the business landscape by 2030. This informative blog will help you understand the relevance and impact of these groundbreaking technologies on your business, underpinning the fact that ignoring them will indeed be detrimental to your business’ survival.

A Snapshot of Emerging Technology

To begin, let's understand the crux of emerging technologies. They are not necessarily new, in fact, most have been around for decades, going through several iterations and cycles. Their eminence springs from the number of users on the adoption curve, starting with innovators, then early adopters and finally reaching mass adoption.

Talking of emerging technologies, the list is quite diverse, including everything from Blockchain-based technologies, the Metaverse, augmented reality, virtual reality, quantum computing, digital assets, digital identities, central bank digital currencies, extended reality, and of course, AI.

Why Pay Attention to Emerging Tech?

Ignoring emerging technologies implies risking your business relevancy and viability. Consider AI, a year ago, it was synonymous with Siri or Alexa. But in October, the launch of applications like GPTchat changed the landscape. Suddenly, everyone was raving about AI and how it effortlessly fits into business.

Here’s the crux - the rapid pace of AI adoption gives us an insight into the potential trajectory of other technologies and the impact these advancements could have on your business.

The Network Effect and the Era of Web 3.0

Emerging technologies are notorious for invoking the ‘network effect,’ a phenomenon where each additional user adds more value to the system. Once it reaches a critical threshold, it becomes almost impossible to stop the application or product gaining traction.

We are currently operating at the start of the mass adoption curve for various emerging technologies as we transition into the Web 3.0 world. Understanding Web 3.0 involves simplifying its salient features:

1. Interaction: It revolves around how the user interacts with your site, product, each other, and even AI.

2. Ownership: As potent empowerment tools, emerging tech promises to restore some ownership power to the user over their data and the content they create, thereby leveling the playing field.

There's a lot to gain when you choose to adopt these technologies, both for the end user and as a business, primarily through the additional security, audibility and disintermediation they offer. However, with the pros come the cons, and one of the most potent disruptors of the established order involves cutting out intermediaries.

Adapting to Emerging Technologies

The key message is not necessarily to switch your business over to the emerging technology. Instead, it suggests that you be ready to interface with companies that have made the transition.

The biggest companies in the world are investing billions into these technologies while most businesses have at least one skunk works project exploring the field. This preparation is critical and should not involve diving in headfirst. Instead, it should purposefully focus on an educative process about what these technologies could mean for your business.

A Simple Blueprint for the Future

Here's a simple blueprint to follow:

1. Begin by educating yourself about what's out there and what it can do for you.

2. Focus on building value quickly and get continuous feedback on the same.

3. Find the relevance of these technologies to your business. Beyond understanding how it works, your primary aim should be to consider its utility to your enterprise.

Through understanding and embracing these technologies, we can remain relevant, maximize impact, and minimize risks. The current technological revolution’s trajectory suggests that the only way we can navigate the next decade is through digitally reimagining our capabilities and exploring the art of the possible. In other words, it's time we all got better at embracing change and capitalizing on potential opportunities.

Wrapping Up

Just like the apt TikTok five-finger challenge metaphor, your readiness for the approaching digital revolution will speak volumes about your business's survival in the future. The opportunities are tremendous, as emerging technologies give businesses the power to connect with consumers in more meaningful ways. Choose to ignore them at your peril.

Looking forward to connecting and discussing more on this topic, until then, keep innovating and keep exploring!

Video Transcription

Hi there everyone. Um I hope people are online. I can't actually see you but uh welcome. It is great to be here at uh at Women Tech.Uh and to start off seeing as I'm sure you've all been sitting for a little while we're going to start off with a tiktok five finger challenge. So to start, put a finger down if you still want your business to be relevant in 2030 put a finger down if you still want your business to be around in 2030. Have you ever been confused about what the heck is web three Blockchain distributed ledgers, nftsarxr quantum computing metaverse or even a I? Have you ever thought that any of these are um a scam, a cult or just a passing fad and finally put a finger down if you don't know how any of these will affect your businesses or even if they'll affect your businesses at all. I'm pretty sure that most of you put at least a few fingers down and uh we are at a tech conference.

So perhaps uh you as an audience are more knowledgeable than most, but it also means that you know a lot of people who are not knowledgeable about emerging technologies and don't know how to understand them. And that's really what I'm here for today. So, hi everyone. I am Alex Pryor. I am head of digital innovation for er H which is one of Africa's largest it companies. I also am a founding member of the World Metaverse Council. I am the founder and CEO of the Africa We Three Revolution, which about uh raising the profile of African technology company. Yes, African technology companies. Uh And I do a lot of speaking on the global circuit around 10 around emerging technologies. Now, we've got about 18 minutes to get through a really deep topic. So I'm going to give you a very high level overview, not of how emerging technologies work, but of why they're important and what they can do for you. And the reason for this is in 2021 I had an aha moment. Um I was already uh head of digital innovation. I had already found out about emerging tech. I thought this was so cool. Uh and was determined to drag uh my company, my colleagues, my clients um kicking and screaming into this new revolution of technology. Uh And then a few months later, uh after having chatted to many people at sort of c suite level all the way down.

Uh I was in interestingly enough, just a pitching training session and I stood up and I spoke about Web three, which is sort of an umbrella term for emerging technology. And the trainer stopped me and says, ok, gonna ask the room who here knows what Web three is not a single hat. And if you are technical, you've probably had this as you've been talking to someone and they get this glazed look in their eyes. And that's really what I'm here to try to change. I am trying to demystify emerging technology specifically for Corporates and for businesses. So let's really start off with what is emerging tech. So emerging tech is not new technology necessarily. In fact, some of the emerging technologies now have been around for decades and have seen various iterations and various cycles. But what really defines emerging technology is how many people are using it where they are on the adoption curve. And if we remember our adoption curve, it starts with our uh our innovators. And uh if you've ever had uh someone who's been really, really interested in Cryptocurrency and no, this will not be a Cryptocurrency talk. Uh They've probably talked your ear off at a dinner and you just want to escape. Um Then you get your early adopters and that includes uh corporate adoption, but it's still a very low proportion of people.

Uh And this is where we sit now with emerging technologies and those technologies include everything from Blockchain based technologies. So say we're going to leave crypto off the table for now. Because myth number one Blockchain and crypto are the same thing. They're not. Uh We're looking at things like the metaverse, we're looking at augmented reality, extended reality, virtual reality. We're looking at things like quantum computing, we're looking at digital assets, digital identities, central bank, digital currencies, and even A I. And really, I think A I is a very good example of why it's important to pay attention to emerging technologies, why you ignore them at your own risk? Because a year ago A I was, you know, Siri or Alexa and my phone is probably going to talk to me now. But in was it October Chat GP T exploded onto the market and the public consciousness and all of a sudden people were raving about how amazing and how interesting it was fastest, pro fastest application to reach 100 million users. Everyone was using it. Everyone was raving about it even now.

There have been over 2000 apps released in the last month, just A I apps and they're all pretty much based on open A is API uh which basically just means he uses their programming and puts a different front end on the front. But suddenly everyone's using it, everyone's talking about it. Everyone's trying to figure out how it fits into business. And if you can see how fast that happened with A I, then perhaps it's important to try to think about how these other technologies could impact your business.

Because really ignoring emerging technologies or dismissing them is something you do at your own risk. So briefly, now I want to chat about the network effect for those who don't know what it is. The network effect is a phenomenon that that happens when every additional user adds more value to the system. And eventually it reaches a critical threshold whereby it's almost impossible to stop uh to stop the, the application, the product. uh that's that's in play. If we think about Facebook and if Facebook only had two users, me and you, I could communicate with you. But if John joined the conversation, suddenly it's an exponential increase. I can talk to you. I can talk to John and John can talk to you. You bring someone else in and the network expands exponentially with every additional user. Facebook was so predominant that when Google who we can all agree has a massive ex uh massive audience, a massive uh set of budgets and developers and everyone sitting behind them, they failed with their social network Google Plus because they just couldn't break into the market that Facebook had.

And with emerging technologies, we're already seeing that network effect. I said I wouldn't talk about Cryptocurrency, but it is the most well known application of Blockchain technologies. And last year that market was sitting at a market cap of $1.9 trillion. And that's just in digital currencies when we just look at Blockchain technology outside of Cryptocurrency, outside of uh digital assets. And then those I'm talking about NFTS and the pretty pictures you can buy uh for ridiculous sums of money and not do very much with, um, that was rated at about $7.4 billion last year and expected to increase to just under 100 billion within the next 3 to 4 years. That's a massive increase. We are sitting at the start of the mass adoption curve for a number of these technologies. And the reason is actually really simple. We're moving into the so-called Web three world and Web three has a lot of definitions and it confuses a lot of people and you may be saying what, what, what, what's Web three and I, I don't even know what web one and two are, but really Web three comes down to two things and they're both about the user.

It's about interaction, how the user interacts with you, how they interact with each other, how they interact with your website and your product. And yes, how they even interact with A I. And it's also about ownership because one of the so-called promises of emerging tech is it puts some of the ownership back in the hands of the user around their data. It puts ownership back in the hands of the user around what they create from a content perspective. Uh It puts the power back for the user to be able to generate revenue themselves rather than revenue being generated off them. And of course, that scares the hell out of a lot of people. Um But the reason that we're seeing this change, aside from the fact that people want more control and people want to be more involved in the brands and the products and the companies that they are involved with. It's really from a technological point of view, it makes sense because currently the most secure platforms that you can use are currently sitting on Blockchain technology. You may have heard of a weird thing called quantum computing, uh which is effectively just really, really, really fast computing speed.

But as and when that becomes, becomes a reality, that is every single secure database pretty much unlocked immediately, what would take 1000 years currently can be done in seconds. Currently, Blockchain is the a couple of blockchains are the only ones that are predicted to be Blockchain resistant or expecting to be. Doesn't mean that new tech is not going to come out tomorrow, the space changes so quickly, but there are really good security reasons to do it.

Secondly, it's auditable and we all know that if we're in business at some point, the auditors are going to be sitting in our meeting rooms, they're going to be going through all of our documents. And so using a Blockchain really just makes that auditability so much more simple.

Third thing is really, it's disintermediate. So instead of sending money via a bank, I can send it directly to you. It's simpler, it's faster and it's cheaper. So those are the three main things. You get efficiencies out of it as a business and as the end user. But of course, it also impacts you as the business. So if we think about the banks and we think about the third parties that have to verify every single transaction, suddenly those third parties have the potential to go out of business and that's scaring a lot of people. So, although you're not seeing this technology out in the open a lot, what we are seeing is in the background, people are spending a lot of money because even if they're not switching over to emerging technology, and we haven't even thought about what we can do with assets xr uh sorry, extended reality the metaverse um in this talk because we just don't have the time.

But even if you don't change your systems, you still need to be able to talk to the companies that have changed their systems. And let me tell you the big five are investing billions into the all sorts of technologies. Almost every company I speak to has at least one skunk works project, seeing about the art of the possible in these arenas. And that's simply good business right now. You don't need to jump in with both feet. In fact, I recommend you don't right now, you need to educate yourself on what the technology can do to you and do for you and why it's important. You don't need to know how it works. You don't need to know how Blockchain works. You don't need to know how augmented reality or holograms or quantum computing work. You don't even need to know how A I works any more than you need to know how your car works in order to be able to drive it down the road to the office. What you need to know is where it is relevant for your business. And that's really my call out to you today is to have a look at what are the emerging technologies? Have a look at the real world use cases where people are actively putting them into play. And the three big industries outside of gaming right now are really finance, uh environmental sustainability. Uh and then things like supply chain, those are kind of the big three we're seeing.

But then curiously retail, especially at the very high end, you will see that the likes of Gucci, the likes of Nike, the likes of Adidas are all very heavily investing in this technology because they're seeing the return on it. Because let me tell you something, your next set of customers, your next set of employees, they're already using this technology. This isn't a merging tech for them. This is just tech. Do you think about your Children? Do they play Minecraft? Do you play Minecraft? Or Roblox.

Do you play Fortnite? Have you ever played an online game? Congrats, you've been in a Metaverse. Have you ever bought a digital piece of armor online? Hey, you've just bought a digital asset. This next phase of technology enables you to connect with this audience in a far more meaningful way. But it also gives back to them because instead of me buying the latest jacket for my daughter's Minecraft character that I bought and I paid for and I've literally just got some digital bits and bites with the new technology, she can resell that which is currently not something that's possible for most online digital companies.

So do your research. It's really, really simple. It's the world's simplest blueprint print, start with educating yourself about what's out there and what can do for you then really build fast, build for value and get feedback from the people who are going to use it because you think you know what they want. But you don't because at the end of the day as businesses, what we're really trying to do is remain relevant and free to prove ourselves. We're trying to maximize the impact we have both on our bottom lines as well as on our customers and our communities. And we're trying to minimize our risks. And the only way we're going to do that over the next 10 years, given the current technological revolution is to digitally reimagine ourselves and see what the art of the possible is so I thank you so much for listening to me. This is a really high flying overview of what is out there. I could talk all day about this stuff. I absolutely love it. So I do encourage you to please connect with me. I put my details in the chat. Um I see there aren't any open questions, but if anyone does have a question, please do drop it into the uh, the Q and A now and I've got a couple of minutes where I can answer some questions for you. Hm, no questions coming through. Ok.

Seeing as we've got a few minutes and unless some questions come through, um, let's chat about some starting points for you. So let's start with central bank digital currencies. Um It's a very good starting point because last time I checked, which means my stats are probably out of date because it was only a few weeks ago. Um, over 100 and five countries representing over 95% of global GDP were at the very least investigating central bank digital currencies. Some are Blockchain based, some aren't, but they're looking into it. And what is that? Well, it's just digital cash that is backed by a reserve bank of a country. That's what it is. So instead of walking around with money or your credit card in a bank, suddenly the government is issuing it directly to you. And that means that the unbanked populations. And if you are outside of uh the North America and Europe, there's a massive population around the globe that is either underbanked or unbanked for the first time will have access via the government in to be able to transact in e-commerce, to be able to interact in ways. Uh, financially, they had never been able to do before because they had previously been in cash based systems. Are you ready for that? Can you actually integrate with the Blockchain based system if you need to? How is that going to change your business model?

Uh I see a question has come through. How do you see the scope of emerging technologies towards energy industries? Business case is evolving. Wonderful. I love this question. Energy is such an interesting space. And I sit here in South Africa where our energy infrastructure is under a bit of strain, which means that we have daily rolling blackouts, we have a schedule and um we get it daily. But one of the best use cases I've seen here is where a company uh guys called Moment Momint, if you're interested, have started what they call the Sun Cash Initiative. And what that means is that people can go on and buy a single solar cell or a group of solar cells digitally. So they basically fractionalized solar power. When they get a certain number that have been purchased, they get installed onto a rural school or onto a hospital somewhere that needs the energy and can't afford to have the blackouts. Uh But then the people buying it actually get a return over 20 years on that investment or they can sell it on the open market. So energy is, and that's just one solar use case of how utilizing this technology is making a real impact in people's lives.

Uh What platforms do you think are the best to start, start learning about A I and how to implement it? Honestly, I think it's a bit of a tough one because there are a lot of different things under A I. If you're talking chat GP, T you're talking about large language models uh which I realize you probably don't realize what those are large language models basically project, what is the most likely next word in any question asked or any, any instruction given? Um There's also obviously machine learning, there's B I, there's data science. So really from an A I perspective, I would find, I would start with youtube, find people who talk in a way that you, I like and understand. And I see I've got one minute left and really just go from there and find the information there. There's a lot of info out there, not all of it is good. Um But even if you just go to open A I who built chat GP T they do have resources available there. Um But really, I love youtube as a learning channel. It's just a case of sifting through the uh finding the diamonds among uh among a lot of pieces of cult. That is my time up. Thank you all so much for your time. I hope you will connect with me.

Uh I hope what I said has made you think um possibly scared you a bit, possibly made you excited. But at the end of the day, I hope it made you think and I hope that I'll be chatting to some of you soon. Thank you so much.