Background on digital technologies
We often talk about fast-paced changes in the digital age. The whole world is in a state of upheaval due to digital technologies and their transformative power. But what are the fundamental characteristics of digital technologies?
Digital technologies are first and foremost digital. Digital refers to an electronic process which generates, stores and processes data in two states: positive and not positive. Data becomes thereby universally available and can be reproduced, reused and communicated indefinitely. As a result, processes are more scalable, and it is easier to link old and new business processes.
Another feature of digital technologies is exponential growth. Sensors and computer systems are increasingly more powerful and at the same time more affordable. This makes technological applications possible that were still fiction a few years ago.
Another decisive factor is that digital technologies work as combinations. Most innovations do not result from the invention of something completely new but from the combination of several already existing systems. The World Wide Web is basically just that: the combination of TCP/IP plus HTML plus browser. Uber, Airbnb, and Facebook are also composed of pre-existing building blocks. The problem for innovation is not so much a lack of innovativeness but that we do not have enough capacity to evaluate all possible combinations.