There is no disputing the fact that we are surrounded by technology, and that it has transformed our lives. All you have to do is look at the many interactions we have with digital technology on a daily basis – from checking our mobile phones throughout the day to using social networks and messaging apps. All of this technology allows us to do things that were unthinkable fifteen or twenty years ago, making it easy for people to stay connected from anywhere in the world at all times, and enabling many business sectors to adopt new models.
What we are witnessing is the unstoppable road to digitization – and it has only just begun. There is no sector that will remain untouched by this transformation. Technology will be everywhere in the coming years. The use of sensors and sensor networks such as LoRaWAN will be widespread. Along with 5G networks, Big Data, and artificial intelligence, they will make possible things as yet thought to be impossible. This trend CANNOT be stopped.
We must stop and ask ourselves, however, are we taking advantage of these technologies and using them in the best way possible, given the time and place in which we are living?
For so many years we have lived as though we are the only ones on the planet. We have lived as though all of the Earth’s resources are entirely at our disposal with no regard for the consequences of technological advances and population growth. But this global pandemic has proven that we cannot continue to exploit nature in this way, and many people have now realized that global warming is not just an alarmist slogan. Something MUST be done.
If we were asked to analyze the impact that digital technology has had in combatting the pandemic, how would most respond?
We would probably all agree that the impact has been minimal despite all the available technology and the pervasiveness of mobile phones. This would have been the perfect opportunity to turn to digital technology to contain and control the pandemic and infections.
We must learn from this missed opportunity before facing future global challenges such as climate change, environmental sustainability and the overall safety of citizens in both the physical and digital worlds.
Every year we extract more than 85,000 million tons of finite resources and biomass from the Earth. Of this, 61,000 million tons are dispersed throughout the globe as unrecoverable resources in the form of pollution or waste, and only 8,000 million tons are converted into reused resources. This is completely unsustainable for the planet, and for humanity.
Of course we look to technology to make our lives easier. While this is not a bad thing, we need to ask, are we utilizing technology where it is most beneficial? For example, technology applied to the digitization of energy efficiency could generate significant economic savings and reduce energy consumption. Now that self-consumption is a reality, technology can enable completely self-sustainable cities. Technology used in the waste cycle and circular economy policies can make it possible to better recover generated waste. Technology can also be used to improve the safety of citizens in both the physical and digital worlds. Certain societal groups that are at higher risk of experiencing violence, like women and the elderly, can benefit significantly from the use of sensors and cameras that enable real-time reaction to attacks and incidents.
With this in mind, Andalusia has the chance to seize a great opportunity. These new technologies bring with them limitless possibilities that will require highly trained personnel – something that is already in short supply in the technology sector. You do not need to have graduated from MIT or Stanford to get the best and latest training in digital technologies – nowadays it can even be done online.
And that’s exactly where the opportunity lies: in the firm belief that digital technology provides the solution to the most crucial challenges facing humanity today, and that we must build up a base of highly specialized professionals in this field. This may even be the solution for regions and towns facing depopulation. Imagine what would happen if these towns began to specialize in Big Data, Sensor Networks or Cybersecurity. Thanks to teleworking, people could be employed at companies in Seville, Malaga, Madrid or even Boston if necessary, all without leaving town. Or imagine if a new tech startup was launched, contributing to the local development of knowledge and technology, and creating more specialized jobs. All of this is possible. And it is up to us to get behind this shift and drive the transformation.
We are faced with a unique opportunity, and we have to make a firm commitment to digital technology and its power to enable a better future for us all.