Download: Technology: The Great Equaliser
Starting with the Industrial Revolution in the late 1700s, technology has grown in leaps and bounds, improving and simplifying the lives of humanity. And as it was then, so does the trend continue, except at an ever increasing, and perhaps even exponential rate. One unique feature of technological advancement, is its tendency to level the playing field.
Technology is the great equaliser, that allows individuals and businesses, of relatively small stature to compete with giants. This is achieved mostly through reduction of costs, and more efficient use of resources. Most importantly however, it is the improved synthesis and decimation of information, that decidedly accounts for these vast improvements.
The technological advancements, that mushroomed out of the Industrial Revolution, were primarily based on hard systems and technologies. These were physical machines, that dramatically revolutionised the way industrial processes were carried out.
It saw dramatic improvements in all areas of human existence, from manufacturing to agriculture, to transportation. This period also saw the initial organisation of human labour in industrial settings, towards production on a massive scale. As time progressed, a gradual shift to soft systems with the advent of computers, came into play.
The shift from hardware dominated systems to software dominated ones, has had a massive impact on business processes, that were previously expensive, and only practical on a large industrial scale.
This has allowed technologies, which were once the exclusive domain of large companies, and extremely wealthy individuals, to fall within the reach of the common man, or woman, and the small business. Provision of services such as printing, can now be done even by an individual with a modest income, operating from their home, at a fraction of the cost just 50 years ago.
Improvements in technology, bring about extensive improvements in the standard of living. Water and sanitation systems are significantly better, and more efficient with improvements in technology, and so are transportation and communications.
This allows more and more communities to enjoy the benefits of these improvements, as costs for delivering such services are lowered. As a result, the cost of living is also generally lower, making essential goods and services available to the masses.
By making essential services available to the masses, technology narrows the social and economic gap, that exists in most societies, allowing people to live healthier and more economically productive lives.
The impact of technology in the lives of individuals, has its effect on many fronts in human lives. With the various effects feeding off of each other, resulting in a multiplier effect. Improvements in health and sanitation for example, results in more productive individuals, who can improve other sectors of the economy, such as production of goods and services.
Technology enables information to travel faster, and at increasingly smaller costs. This is a feature of technology, that businesses thrive on. With faster communications, businesses are better able, to coordinate their activities across vast geographical and economic zones.
With these developments, businesses are able to hire and work remotely, for instance. Due to technological advancement, it is no longer essential that the business and the customer be in the same physical location, to conduct a business transaction, nor is it the case for employer and employee.
Improved technological processes, result in faster and more efficient ways of production of goods and services. This means lower costs for business, where they have better access to raw materials, and equipment at low cost.
As a result of the lower costs, the cost of entry for businesses in most sectors, is vastly reduced, allowing more people to go into business. For example, it is not unimaginable nowadays, to have a soloprenuer working from their home, armed with nothing more than a laptop and an inkjet printer.
Technology has brought about great equalisation in education. For one thing, the Internet is a wealth of knowledge, where one can find information on practically anything, and all that is needed is Internet access.
With improvements in communications technologies, Internet access is becoming available to more people every day, at lower cost, and with increasingly faster access.
Furthermore, academic qualifications, are no longer confined to the halls of campus education. Online education, is now available at a fraction of the cost of campus education.
Not only is online education relatively cheaper than campus education, it is also highly convenient. Online education allows participants to obtain a recognised formal qualification, whilst pursuing other activities, such as full time work, or business.
Social networking is a phenomenal product of recent technological advancement. It allows us to stay in touch and is deeply ingrained in every aspect of our lives.
Most people these days, cannot imagine themselves without their social media. It is built into the fabric of our very existence, and can be used to great benefit, both in our personal lives, as well as for business communications and interactions.
The cellphone’s impact can also not be understated. The cellphone is a far cry from the days when you had to sit by your telephone, in your house or office, in order to take a call or stay chained to your desktop computer, to keep up with your email.
Now, thanks to technological advancement, you can carry your phone wherever you go, and furthermore it is Internet enabled, allowing you to carry your email, and social networks with you as well. Social networking and cellular communications have enabled cheap, and fast communications to be available to the average Joe and Jane.
Some may wonder if technology is really a great equaliser, when we take a holistic view. After all there are a lot of negative impacts of technology, ranging from adverse environmental impact, to privacy issues online.
To this I can only say, that everything should be weighed upon the scales of the good or bad. When it comes to technological advancement, I would like to believe that, overall, the scales fall in favour of the good.
It is important to bear in mind, however, that in order to realise the full potential and benefits for more equitable lives, from the impact of technological advancement, society has to foster and develop entrepreneurs. These are leaders and visionaries who will take advantage of the benefits technology has to offer, and extend them to others in their communities and beyond.
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