Technology enables us at three levels.
At the first, surface level, technology is a tool, a convenience, a method of doing things faster, with less effort, more accurately, etc. Using technology as a tool, we can achieve tremendous savings in terms of human effort and removal of drudgery.
At the second, deeper level, technology transforms into an enabler of scale and multiplied capacity to serve. Using technology as a scale enabler we can provide access to millions, provide anywhere-anytime support, etc.
At the third, deepest level, technology becomes an engine for human and social transformation. Technology then transforms man’s possibilities, man’s power to contribute, man’s ability to significantly change the equation between him and traditional systems of delivery and control.
An organization that is restricted to the level of tools will be able to respond to customer and competitor challenges in terms of improved efficiency.
An organization that learns to use technology as a lever for scale and reach will not only be able to do the above, but it will also be able to bring about significant expansion of products, services, reach, and delivery standards.
An organization that uses technology as an engine for social change will be able to bring about a quantum shift in the lives of the communities it serves. This will not only transform the world outside, it will, at the same time, bring about profound changes in the very conduct of the institution.
All three levels are open to all organizations, but few organizations make the journey from Level 1 (tools) to Level 2 (scale and access) to Level 3 (social change). Why?
The constraint does not lie in money, resources or in the state of technology. It lies in the human beings who use the technology.
To achieve Level 1, we as technology users, need to recognize and accept the need for change; be willing to learn new things; and to struggle with new ways of working.
To go from Level 1 to Level 2, we need to make a shift in mindset – from copers to aspirers. We must aspire to lead, to become a world-scale organization. We must be willing to make bold, future oriented technology investments, and back up those investments with improvements in technical and managerial capabilities.
And to go from Levels 2 to Level 3, we need to make a more fundamental shift – we must go beyond quantitative/ material achievements to a state of positive contribution to self and society. In short, we must be able to put human purpose at the center of our thinking.
A human purpose-centered (citizen) view transforms technology from a set of convenience, access, and scalability solutions into new socio-technical models underpinning a new society.
These socio-technical models will enable us to go beyond providing services to co-creating the dynamics of this society.
Thus the future of technology depends upon our state of citizenship. As a mere business organization we will be restricted in our vision of technology and its value to us in the future. As a collective of citizens, we will be free to envision and realize key elements of a new society where technology is one of the platforms for such a change.