Phil Ruthven, Founder
Many of us in business or household endeavours these days are in awe of the pace of new age product creation and evolution, be they electric vehicles (EV cars), new gadgets, new services or accessible space travel.
But we need to have a deeper understanding of what is really happening in this new age, coined as the Infotronics Age, that advanced nations began at the end of the Industrial Age in the mid-1960s; and which has been going through a second transformation since 2007 with the advent of digitisation and the Digital Era at large. At the same time, we need to see the ubiquitous nature of the accompanying new underpinning sciences, technology and systems that are impacting on all products, all industries (over 500 of them), all businesses, governments and all households. Not just the more spectacular and obvious examples.
Each new age has new underpinning systems & technologies that impact on businesses and households. The broad term for these is ‘utilities’. Through the ages of progress with rising standards of living – shown below – there have been extra ubiquitous ‘utilities’ added.
Through these ages:
- in the Hunting & Gathering Age it was tools, for domestic, hunting, and combat purposes;
- in the Agrarian Age, it was transport (land and water) for goods and people;
- In the Industrial Age, it was power in two stages (mechanical via water wheels and windmills, then steam) in the first stage, late-Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, and electricity and fossil fuels in second stage in the Twentieth Century and continuing;
- In the Infotronics Age, it is information and communications technology (ICT), again in two stages (Stage I from the mid-1960s to 2006), and in Stage II from 2007 the turbo-charged Digital Era/Digitisation with fast-broadband, artificial intelligence (AI) software and analytics.
It is important not to be mesmerised by the term ‘Hi Tech’. After all, as visible and awe-inspiring as the new goods and services are, the powerful and underpinning Infotronics Age utility is not that big a share of GDP, any more than electricity was in the Industrial Age. The ICT sector, now in the Stage II Digital Era, is less than 3% of the nation’s revenue in F2022, as seen below.
Players in this new age utility include: Dell; HP; Siemens; Microsoft; Accenture; Amazon Cloud; NBN; Telstra (5G); and thousands of others.
But the best way to view what is changing is via the industries and products not just the generic hi-tech term that is centered on the digital era or ‘digitisation’ utilities.
- Google is an advanced online encyclopedia (commonly referred to as a ‘search engine’
- Tesla is a car manufacturer in that industry’s third lifecycle over some 120 or so years
- Spotify is a music store that has gone online with the new utility
- Netflix is a video store that has gone online with the underpinning of the new utility
- Amazon, eBay and Alibaba are department stores that are online
- Apple is in the telephone manufacturing industry (and other industries)
- PayPal is a pseudo-bank with a single financial product, ditto After-Pay
- Atlassian is a financial system that is online
- Kindle is an online bookstore
and so on, across more and more of Australia’s 19 industry divisions (see below) and 500+ classes of industry that make up our $2.2 trillion GDP and $6.1 trillion revenue in F2022.
Service industries now dominate modern developed economies, particularly the Quaternary sector (green in the above), with the Quinary sector (particularly health) coming in to greater prominence (blue in the above). Every sector, division and class, is subject to hi-tech transformation.
So, hi-tech is not so much a case of what you think it is, so much as what it really is: a new utility that every industry is using, or will use; and every household is using it, or will use to change the way they do things.
In short, hi-tech is not some clever goods and services, it underpins all industries in the form of fast broadband, AI, analytics, and unique IP and is not a delete option for any corporation wanting to survive.
And as a tailpiece, it is interesting know this new hi-tech utility is impacting on workforce occupations, not just the industries they work in, as we show in the final exhibit.
One of the more apparent changes has been with sales workers. In 2006, the year before the new ICT utility entered its second stage (digitisation), their share of the workforce was 10.2%. It will be down a third to around 7.1% by 2031, a quarter of a century later. Due, of course to the massive switch to online buying and shopping.
And five of the eight ASCO groups are shrinking as a result of continued mechanisation and the new utility impacts. Only the Professional and Community/Personal Groups are increasing their shares, and both of these are beneficiaries of the new utility, especially with the AI and analytics components of the Digital Era.
Hi-Tech is not a separate category of modern economies, it is the underpinning of all economic and household endeavours and activities into the future.
Ruthven Institute have partnered with University of Melbourne to form the RI Hub. To learn more about the RI Hub’s research please click the link below.