The Second Tech Boom

David Kirkpatrick (Fortune) takes a look at the emerging, new economy – one where technology is embedded in all that we do, and efficiency and productivity are the norm rather than the exception.

No manufacturing company of consequence operates without a sophisticated enterprise resource planning software infrastructure, whether from SAP or another supplier. Increasingly these systems are linked with sophisticated supply chain and finance automation so companies know where things sit in their pipeline, how much inventory they have, and how much it all is costing them.

Ordering over the Internet has become routine. This is as true for manufacturing giants as it is for consumers. Steel beams, for example, no less than books are now ordered online–probably more, in fact, as a percentage of the total. As a result, when demand increases in one place, its consequences can be felt efficiently, and immediately, elsewhere. Wal-Mart led the way with its long-ago deal with Procter & Gamble automating shelf replenishment, but now that kind of connectivity is, again, routine. We aren’t in the vaunted real-time economy yet, but we’ve moved much closer.

Communication in general between workers inside companies and between companies is now automated by e-mail and web portals. Corporate edicts can be disseminated at unprecedented speed, as can business orders.

Meanwhile, news travels faster and more efficiently. Columns like this one can be written and published immediately, to a group that has indicated its interest. You get the information you want when you want it, whether it’s here or on MyYahoo, or the New York Times Online or Google News. How could that kind of efficiency not help an economy grow rapidly?

To keep your job in this new world, you’d better be doing something that benefits from a digitized economy. And to compound the problem, as Intel CEO Craig Barrett has lately been pointing out — we emerge from this recession with several billion more people having entered the global economy. Many of these people are willing to work hard for much less than the typical American. And much of today’s work, as we’ve discussed here repeatedly, can be outsourced abroad over the wire.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.