Expert’s Corner: Digital Economy Q&A with Timothy Grayson

September 17th, 2014

Expert’s Corner with Timothy Grayson: #DigitalEconomyCongress

In anticipation of the 2nd Annual Digital Economy Congress, Reboot is excited to present “Expert’s Corner”, a series of blog posts featuring outstanding digital economy leaders and professionals who will be speaking at the congress in October. Read on for a glimpse of what the #DigitalEconomyCongress is all about…

We had the opportunity to ask Timothy Grayson a few questions about his views and opinions on the digital economy leading up to the congress:

Q: As our world becomes increasingly digitized, how do you think the way we do business will change?

A: It will become increasingly less nuanced—after all, digital is binary with no room for “interpretation.” But the forces of digitization will likely sustain blowback from real people because this situation, as it progresses, will become more and more untenable. On one level, the Internet affords the opportunity to reduce costs and eliminate superficial overhead in mundane activities. That means it also extends a business’s reach to any place that a fibre line ends… theoretically. What’s mundane? Pretty much anything that can be reduced to a logical flow of yes’s and no’s. This can be high level activity such as transacting for hundreds of millions of dollars. Oh wait, that already happens. Beyond those vast number of activities that are clearly binary in nature, digitization will continue to fail around and demand salvation from generations-old features of business such as interpersonal relationships often face-to-face, such as imagination, such as flexibility and concession. None of these is a hallmark of the 1 and 0 nature of the digital world. The idea that a business can extend itself to anywhere the Internet goes is “theoretical” because national boundaries are reasserting themselves in many different ways. Some are state-driven barricades such as laws; others are more personal matters such as trust and proximity. In any case, I would expect that business will be much more of the same as we have experienced though probably faster.

Q: What does the term “Digital Economy” mean to you? or How do you define the “Digital Economy”?

A: Digital economy is hard to pin down because it has been evolving or “pivoting” over time through various iterations. There was a time at the turn of the century when it was synonymous with eCommerce and meant any economy that was exclusively generated out of the digital (Internet) business. It became hard to sustain that concept because very few things could or would originate, be conducted, and then be fulfilled purely online, especially for consumers. Tickets, travel, news/information, digital music/video fit the bill. The concept shifted over time to include ALL commerce that was facilitated by a digital means, and typically Internet-based platform for communication. This opened the door to allows all forms of business, by conducting the commercial element of the transaction using a Web application of some sort, to be called digital business. At some point through all of this, mobile became the hot commodity for communications. So now we have digital economy encompassing the facility to transact using a mobile device anywhere. Given that the construct’s (digital economy as something distinct) ongoing usefulness is dubious, the problem that will have to be ironed out soon is captured in the following: If I use my web browser (phone or computer) to order and pay for take-out Chinese food, is that part of the digital economy? What if I call, using the same iPhone and pay by reading out my credit card numbers: not digital economy? I’m not sure how the distinction holds any relevance anymore. And this holds for larger transactions like when a business offering widgets or some service invoices and then takes payment through online capabilities. Digital economy? Perhaps what’s going to happen is that eventually the description, digital economy, will spawn some more narrowly defined sub-categorizations.

Q: How has the digital economy affected you from a work and/or personal perspective?

A: Clearly, the digital economy keeps me busy. It is the world in which I work. What the Internet and WWW has wrought, as far as the evolution of the business platform, keeps me and many technologists working because of the richness of opportunity to extend business, automate functions and work, change operating structures, and adjust business and operational models. It will continue to do so for a good long while because the environment is a long way from stabilizing, much like any other economic change or evolution. Besides, there are so many challenges to overcome before the platform can realize the fullness of its presently visible potential. On a personal level, the digital economy has opened up consumer options to me that would not have been viable twenty years ago. It has also blown open my patterns of commercial activity to anywhere, any time since there are no longer “off” times or places. But, I’m not entirely sure just how much of it is deep change as opposed to relatively superficial novelties.

Q: If you could give consumers one piece of advice on how to thrive in the changing digital economy, what would it be?

A: For consumers, as for everyone else, the only general advice that would be meaningful in all circumstances would be: Keep your head about you; it’s not less dangerous and there is always a price to pay. It’s easy for people to get carried away on the euphoria about the digital economy being something entirely new and different, a change for the better, and all sunshine and lollipops. Then, when faced with zippy novelties and “valuable” applications and services on your smartphone or computer, it’s easy for people—consumers—to forget that you never get something for nothing. What you could be paying with is your life in the form of your privacy and security. Remember, once something is known widely it’s very hard to make private again. That’s not like losing $20 to a scam or bad service. More than that, you don’t know who you can trust or even if they are who you think they are when they are at the other end of the fibre.

Q:What are you most looking forward to at the #DigitalEconomyCongress in Vancouver, BC in October?

A: The participants, based on the speaker roster, seem to be a thoughtful, broad-thinking group. I am looking forward to participating in some wide-ranging discussions about technology, business, and society. Often those three areas are the sole focus of a conference or colloquium, so it’s encouraging and refreshing to have them all being put into the mix at the same time. It seems to me that one leads into and affects each other in an ongoing, evolving cycle.

This post is part of Reboot Communications’ “Expert’s Corner” series. The 2nd Annual Digital Economy Congress is happening on October 9-10, 2014, in Vancouver, BC. Find out how you can get involved here.

Timothy Grayson - Director Product Development, Canada Post Digital Delivery

Timothy Grayson exposes simple truths in simple—and entertaining—ways. In his last book, The Spaces In Between, he encourages and provides tools for different thinking and new perspectives. For 25-years, Timothy has innovated in software, investment management, online travel, and postal services. He’s been a recognized, thought leader in digital identity, mobile marketing, and digital geo-location. […]