Digital megatrends and why they matter

By Stefan Hajkowicz
Senior principal scientist at CSIRO’s Data61

Stefan Hajkowicz will be making a keynote presentation on DIGITAL MEGATRENDS at the upcoming D61+ LIVE event in Brisbane on 18 /19 Sept.

 ‘Megatrends’ is a phrase used to describe the dramatic intersection of several smaller trends to create a larger, more significant change. It was first coined by best-selling American author John Naisbitt in 1982 in his book, ‘Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives’ – a seminal work that accurately predicted the world’s shift from an ‘industrial’ society to an ‘information’ one and from ‘national’ economies to a ‘global’ one. Megatrends are monumental and overlapping. They happen across all fields of modern life – geopolitical, economic, environmental, social, technological and legal.

Right now CSIRO’s Data61 is putting its extensive experience in ‘strategic fore-sighting’ into trying to understand how digital technology will impact on all the interconnected parts of our world, over the next decade.

So why does this matter? If we get it right our economic growth rate could be boosted by up to 1.2% a year, raising billions of dollars and creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs. However the benefits of the digital age are not assured for Australia. And while it’s great that new markets are being created, the reality is existing ones are being extinguished at the same time. Business, government and community decision-makers are facing an ever expanding array of new and different risks and opportunities.  This means we need to look ahead. While the future can never be fully known, our strategic foresight research can help people understand what may potentially unfold. Strategic foresight can help us contemplate multiple plausible futures and make wiser choices. Our Digital Megatrends report explores the coming decade of digital disruption through the lens of the following six interlinked megatrends.

What to expect over the next digital decade

1 – Intelligent machines: Sensory systems, machine learning, predictive analytics and artificial intelligence are all advancing in leaps and bounds. As these new technologies are adopted by businesses, governments and organisations, jobs will be impacted. As a society we need a plan to meet ethical challenges that will arise around replacing human jobs with machine jobs and allowing automated machines to make decisions for us.

2 – Digital Dividends: Digital technology is seeping into every single subset of society, radically changing what’s possible. Digital technology is allowing us to sweat our infrastructure assets harder and drive massive productivity and efficiency increases in key areas like finance, healthcare, transport, retail, education and more. From these digital gains will come new products, new sources of economic value and a less damaging environmental footprint.

3 – Data Driven future: The practice of collecting and using data to improve functionality and decision-making is spreading like wildfire across business and government. Arguably this shift defines the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ era we are living in. On the upside these changes are driving jobs and growth. Less positively the ubiquitous use of data poses difficult questions for individuals and governments around confidentiality, privacy and regulation.

4 – Burning platforms: Vertically integrated platforms like Uber, Amazon and Facebook have grown to dominate their respective sectors. Despite the newness of this massive shift, a parallel change away from mega-companies looks increasingly likely. New enabling technologies like blockchain and distributed ledger cut out intermediaries and allow direct exchanges between two parties. Imagine a social media network that’s peer-to-peer rather than hosted by Facebook on their own platform. The likelihood of the looming disruption of the established vertical platforms shows just how quickly the digital world is shifting.

5 – Online burnout: As with any seismic shift there are downsides to the digital revolution. Information overload, online harassment, cyber-crime, cyber-terrorism, online manipulation and privacy breaches are considerable challenges for humanity. Quite naturally many people are looking for an ‘unplug’ option. However given the pace and breadth of change, being an ‘unconnected’ citizen or consumer isn’t really possible. Over the next ten years these challenges will be met via a wave of technology innovation designed to ensure people can enjoy the upsides of the digital revolution without compromising their safety, security and overall experience

6 – Reality bites: Although digital is transforming many aspects of our lives, there are some things which never change. Simple pleasures like face-to-face interaction or a simple cup of coffee aren’t going away. One need only look at the visitor numbers to brick-and-mortar venues like museums or stadiums to see that regardless of the popularity of streaming services like Netflix, people still want to get together to see cultural or sporting events in person. The next decade will bring much of our work and life into the cloud, but fundamentally we will remain grounded in being human and seeking out human experiences.

Stefan Hajkowicz will be making a keynote presentation on DIGITAL MEGATRENDS at the upcoming D61+LIVE event in Brisbane on 18 /19 Sept.

About Stefan Hajkowicz

Stefan Hajkowicz is a senior principal scientist at CSIRO’s Data61 working in the field of strategic foresight. His work has guided the policies and strategies of companies and governments in Australia and worldwide for several decades. His latest report – DIGITAL MEGATRENDS – a perspective on the coming decade of digital disruption is a must-read for anyone interested in the future of business, technology and government.


Watch Stefan’s MEGATREND presentation from the recent VIVID festival

 About D61+ LIVE

Hosted by CSIRO’s Data61, D61+ LIVE will attract around 2,000 delegates from all areas of the Australian research and development ecosystem, including government, corporates, high growth SMEs and academia. Over the course of two days we’ll discuss the scale, speed and effects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, explore Australia’s economic strengths and discover our opportunities to compete in a globalised economy. We’ll also have 50+ booths showcasing our data science and technology innovations, and an exciting range of speakers and sessions to spark curiosity around emerging technology and how it is being applied. It’s free. Register here.



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