This series is more than five years old, but perhaps worth a relook given the slowdown that we see around. It was centred around the famous Nicholas Carr article that came in Harvard Business Review entitled “IT Doesn’t Matter.”
What can these emerging markets and enterprises learn from what Nicholas Carr has to say?
The first learning is that IT needs to be treated as infrastructure by these emerging enterprises. Without technology, the situation is akin to the wars the US fought in Afghanistan and Iraq – the enterprises have little chance of survival over the long-term when competition invades their territories. IT in the emerging markets is a disruptive innovation that can help redefine industries. IT must become part of the DNA. This needs management vision which looks at connected computers as not just machines to be given to typists and accountants, but a productivity tool that needs to be given to every employee.
The second learning is that business processes need to be re-thought and re-engineered around IT. The question to ask is: how can my business be done differently if everyone in my organization had a computer connected to the Internet on their desktops? This is where the efficiency and productivity gains will come. In these enterprises, there is plenty of scope for IT-driven optimisations. It is possible that, taking Carr’s views to their logical end, that every enterprise would have IT as part of its fabric. This is good because then the entire industry becomes more competitive and better placed. It moves from a low-equilibrium of non-consumption of IT to another, better equilibrium, as described by Carr.
The third learning is that enterprises must focus on the affordability aspect of IT. Just because IT has become cheaper in the developed markets does not mean it is affordable in the emerging markets. The basic desktop software (MS Windows and MS Software) can cost almost as much as the annual per capita GDP. The solution is not non-consumption or piracy, but seeking out affordable solutions which make IT a utility. This is in fact where the next set of opportunities for technology companies lie.