What does Digital Economy mean for the Individual?

A common question I have been hearing is “What does Digital Economy mean for the Individual?”. This is a very interesting question as it helps uncover some of the underlying dynamics and potential value for the digital economy.Digital Economy promises to improve the lives of individuals by removing the hassles of daily life. Right from making sure we achieve optimum health through to dependable transport. Underlying this promise is the assumption that:

  • New real-time data that is becoming available from advances in sensors
  • New algorithms will make sense of these data
  • New personalized systems will enable these new benefits

Much of this is not new news. Many of the science fiction books have hinted at these kinds of systems in the past. So what has been stopping these kinds of systems emerge already? The reality is that steps have been made towards this vision, but we do not often think about them as this overall journey. Getting a Taxi is a good example to consider here. Only a few years ago, the only way to book a taxi was to find the number for a local taxi company, make the call and wait. Most taxi drivers were prompt and you were on your way. Everyone remembers the bad experiences and become  “folk law myth” that are repeated to all. The digital economy response to this is new services such as https://www.uber.com/ https://hailocab.com/ or gettaxi.co.uk/. For the individual these provide many unique benefits, previously impossible, such as knowing where the taxi is, selecting a taxi based on the driver’s reputation, picking the nearest taxi or the cheapest taxi. What these digital economy apps have transformed the expectation of individuals in finding a taxi.

From initial exploration of these kinds of digital economy systems, there are a number of questions to be considered

  1. What is the issue/problem/hassle that the individual faces?
  2. What new data is needed to improve the situation?
  3. What is the value to the individual?
  4. What is the overall architecture of the solution?
  5. What is likely to be the overall cost of creating the system?
  6. How can the scheme be funded?
  7. Will the existing system stakeholders support the system?
  8. What are the possible unintended consequences and how can they be mitigated?

Whilst these are not a comprehensive list of questions, they provide a good starting point for anyone considering a Digital Economy project that might address an individual’s needs. The question that is often overlooked is that last one. As an example, tweeting that you are going on vacation is an invitation to burglars to steel your possessions. The ethical use of the data gathered and protecting the privacy of individuals are also critical consideration here.

The digital economy will does have the promise of changing how individuals experience services and products, but this will require innovations at all levels and inspiring individuals to make them reality.


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