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When digitalisation becomes a challenge

Want an attractive job? Acquire digital expertise! Is business going bad? Digitise your systems! Struggling with deadlines? Digitise your everyday life! Digitalisation seems to be the solution to everything, but is it really?

Knowledge is, according to the British philosopher Francis Bacon, power. He is often referred to as the prophet of modern technology and he was convinced that scientific knowledge could be used to advance peoples interests and prosperity. He got it right. However, digitalisation is not all positive. Here are some reflections researchers at BI have made on this topic.

Dark clouds in the sky

Modern technology makes it possible for us to shop in the grocery store, spend time with friends and travel to other countries without ever leaving the house. However, even though technology and digitalisation has made the world more accessible to us, we may not always be able to keep up. The disadvantages of technology can sometimes give us a reason to stop and think about what is most important to us. Professor Tor Bang lists some of the potential challenges of technological development.

Here, but no further

Some people are good at finding technological solutions to problems. This often gives them an advantage, and in some cases a monopoly in a market. But you could easily get lost if you haven't thought far enough and are unable to keep up. Professor Espen Andersen exemplifies this with Widerøe's technological history of short runways and choices of technology.

The simple is often the best

It is easy to be seduced by technological gadgets and advanced computer systems with endless opportunities. One often hears about the importance of digitalisation in order to not fall behind. But not all businesses need the latest technology to do well. Innovation does not always have to be expensive or groundbreaking as long as it is smart. Professor Espen Andersen has the following challenge to eager digitalisation businesses: “Trapped in many complex systems, there is a simple solution that is good enough. Do you have the courage to release it?”

Digital technology creates greater differences

Even though digitalisation ties us together, in many ways it also takes us further apart. Recent research shows that there are three ways digitalisation increase the difference between us.

  1. Access: Norway is on the forefront of digitalisation, but several groups in society lack access to digital technology and therefore automatically fall outside.
  2. Skills: Different groups in society use and understand technology in different ways. Some are probably better equipped, for example, to avoid surveillance and protect their own privacy.
  3. Consequences: How good are people at using digital technology to their advantage? An example of this is saving money by using the internet.

Professor Christoph Lutz exemplifies these distinctions and writes: “In the age of data mining, life’s opportunities are at stake through the sorting, review, and ranking of algorithms.”

Digitalisation = wealth?

Much of the research on digitalisation is about financial gains and efficiency. Most people conclude that internet promotes economic growth. But is that really true? Professor Per Botolf Maurseth decided to research this on his own, and he was surprised when his own results did not match those of the majority. Maurseth`s interpretation of the data concluded that “countries with a high proportion of internet users had a significantly lower growth than countries with a lower proportion of online citizens.