By Genís Roca:
The beginning of the Industrial Revolution, which was a process of technological, economic, and cultural transformation of society dates back to 1760. It was a transition from a rural agriculture and trade-based economy to an urban industrialization and mechanization-based economy. This process, made possible thanks to the development of technologies such as steam and electric power, has been going on for almost 300 years, because changing a society cannot be done in the blink of an eye: it is a process that normally takes several generations to complete.
Today, our generation is the pioneer of a new transition, this time towards a digital society. Humanity is experiencing an economic, cultural, and technological transformation process that will undoubtedly lead us to a new way of structuring society. Once again, we are witnessing world-changing technology. If we once electrified our cities, businesses, and homes, we are now digitalizing them. Despite the apparent speed of today’s technology, this is a process that began decades ago and will continue to unfold for decades to come. There are still many years of change ahead.
The digital phenomenon is transforming education, commerce, mobility, leisure, politics, the economy, culture… that is to say, we should not only explore the new business models that it can enable, but we should also be aware of the changes that it will bring about in our social model. In the same way, in recent centuries we have established the rules for managing labor relations, and now we have to discuss the rules that govern information. It will be crucial that we discuss and agree on who owns the data, who can use it, and for what purpose. This is a new chapter in the social contract that rules the world.
Digitalization will change production systems and business models, and therefore power structures and economic, political, and social leadership. We have seen it before in history and we know that business opportunities come into play when this happens, but there are also geopolitical and social agendas. The future of both enterprises and countries will depend on how to combine the opportunities offered by technology with the new needs for the development of a fair society.
We are the children of the industrial society and the parents of the digital society, and each society needs its social contract. We are the first generation of a social change that we will have to explore, discuss, and negotiate. Our task is to rethink our business activity in a more radical way, seeking continuous improvement, but also aware of the social changes that will take place. This task will take us all our lives, because changing the world has never been simple or quick.
The next 30 or 40 years will define the way the world will be, just as it did during the Industrial Revolution; fortunately, there are companies such as ISA that are confirming their commitment to fair development by incorporating this type of debate, as well as the responsibility debate, in their spaces for reflection and co-creation, such as *Inspiring Boards. They do the right thing because we have a responsibility to the next generation. *Inspiring Boards 2023, an international event for boards of directors of ISA and its companies in Latin America, whose mission was to strengthen ESG and corporate governance best practices.
*Inspiring Boards 2023, an international event for boards of directors of ISA and its companies in Latin America, whose mission was to strengthen ESG and corporate governance best practices.