The death of distance as a determinant of the cost of communications will probably be the single most important force shaping society in the first half of the next century.
– Frances Cairncross, author of ‘The Death of Distance’
Mankind has never before experienced such rapid advancements in technology as today. The biggest changes are happening in communications with the development in computer technology and the proliferation of internet access.
The further advancements in ease of communication and the prevalence of hyper-connectivity has managed to help overcome the barriers that were traditionally created by distance.
Telephony is being reshaped by the Fourth Industrial Revolution – the digitization of the world. Just like the lines are being blurred between the physical and digital world, so too have our means of communicating become digitized.
Consider for a moment how often in our daily lives we use free technology like Skype, WhatsApp, Apple Face-Time, Google Hangout, VOIP and cellular networks. These communication platforms have almost completely replaced the traditional landline telephone and can function on almost all digital hardware devices, be it mobile, tablet or desktop. We’ve grown accustomed to being available almost 24/7. We also expect a seamless, high definition two-dimensional communication experience which should as a minimum include excellent audio and the option for visual capabilities in the form if video. All of this at no extra cost provided one has an internet connection. The concept of making a ‘long-distance’ call across continents and time-zones has been rendered irrelevant and obsolete. We can now communicate when we want to, with whoever we want to, anywhere in the world, at any time we choose to.
Mobile computing power
Mobile devices have advanced so rapidly and are continuing to do so at such an exponential rate that it has become possible to run an entire business with multiple employees, in multiple cities across the world, off of cellular telephones. We all walk around with a super computer in our pockets these days. Your smartphone alone is more powerful than NASA’s combined computing power that sent man to the moon in 1969! The advancements in technology over the past 50 years have been staggering. It is because of all these advancements in technology that we as business people are being enabled. We can truly feel empowered. Never before has the every-day-man had so many opportunities and options to realize their dreams. We truly live in an age of opportunity.
“There has never been a commercial technology like this in the history of the world, whereby from the minute you adopt it, it forces you to think and act globally,” says Robert Hormats, deputy chairman of Goldman Sachs International.
Internet access has arguably become a commodity in many parts of the world. Right here in our very own South Africa, access to free wi-fi has even been prioritized over and above providing running water to township homes. Internet access is being seen as the great equalizer and platform for opportunity. Speed of internet is also driving this phenomenon of hyper-adoption globally. South Korea is known to have the world’s fastest average internet connection speed – four times faster than the world average. Seoul, its capital city, has just under 500,000 free wi-fi hot-spots, making internet practically free anywhere in the city. With cost, as the original barrier to entry, significantly reduced and in many instances removed, it is no surprise that digital communication is reshaping the world as we know it.
The ease of airplane travel and the cost thereof has also given birth to a more transient society. We truly feel connected with the world. We choose to uproot and explore foreign lands. We do this for leisure, but also more importantly, we choose to live in one location and work in another – all made possible by the ease of global communication and travel. We feel confident doing this as we manage to maintain a connection with the people that matter to us regardless of proximity and geographic location.
The term ‘global village’; a phrase first coined in 1962 by Canadian, Marshall McLuhan, to describe the world that has been ‘shrunk’ by modern advances in communications; has today become a prophecy realised. McLuhan likened the vast network of communications systems to one extended central nervous system, ultimately linking everyone in the world.
We are the global village generation.
Due to the new way we think about ownership of things against the back-drop of always having access to everything digital through subscription services, without necessary owning it, we’ve evolved from holding a gatherer, hoarding mentality to being quite comfortable with leasing, partial ownership, and co-owning.
Think of brands like Uber, AirBnB, Netflix, Spotify and WeWork who have democratised the on-demand, partial ownership of cars, homes, movies, music and even offices through the classic subscription service model.
WeWork, co-working office spaces, has 749 office spaces, in 124 cities, across 39 countries across the globe. Limbik Media as an agency servicing clients across South Africa and the world has subscribed to this new on-demand, you only pay-for-what-you-use-when-you-use-it model. Our business leverages a combination of co-working ecosystems spanning across Workshop17, Spaces and WeWork. We’ve especially bought into the global ecosystem model of a network of offices, accessible 24/7 so that we can be where our clients are, regardless of geography of our ‘office’ and where our employees reside.
This changes how we do business, as brands can now be where their customers are and businesses where their clients are situated. As a result, one has an on-demand presence in all of these locations and countries as and when you choose. The workplace has been transformed to be where the worker is and not the other way around. This has given rise to people being more transient when they make decisions about work and location.
We like choice. It’s what makes us human. The most privileged species on the planet. You have a choice of where in the world you’d like to be. Live and work. As a result, this choice also shapes what kind of work you choose to do.
The transient workforce has given rise to a new traveling generation. It has already been well documented that the Millennial generation has a predisposition to investing in experiences and as a result has adopted a more transient lifestyle and combined that with their choice of work and location. It’s not uncommon for a digital business to have the luxury of being head-quartered in a beautiful Tuscan hill-top winelands town in Italy, employ a web-developer in Lisbon Portugal, a designer in Berlin Germany, a Data Scientist in Singapore, a Programmatic Media Planner in Dubai, UAE and an Accountant in Tokyo, Japan (you get my drift).
The reality of this world is that one can still have loyal employees without them being ‘loyal’ to the location of the employer. All thanks to the world wide web connecting us seamlessly at all times of the day regardless of geography, time zones, or season.
In an always-on society, there are actually some benefits to having staff in different time-zones. This enables businesses to maximize the full extent of a 24-hour day, all managed and made possible with the help of digital technology. With the help of cloud-based storage we don’t need expensive servers anymore to securely host all our confidential data and information. You don’t have to employ an accountant that lives and works in close proximity of your company, because with real-time, bank-integrated accounting software, any business owner can log-on to their accounting software and view their company statements and make critical decisions right there and then. Teams can hand over to each other from time-zone to time-zone with the help of project management and time tracking software that are cloud based and easily operated either from one’s personal computer or via mobile phone application. These are but a few practical examples, but the opportunities for cross-country collaboration given the technology available, are staggering.
Proximity vs Interconnectivity
In this new era of remote-working, proximity to one’s colleagues and employer will become less and less of a consideration when considering employment. The emphasis then shifts to the ease of communication. After all, the human species only survived this long because we figured out how to communicate with each other. It’s part of our DNA. It makes us who we are, but it also makes us good at what we do. Out of all the species on earth, Sapiens are the best at organizing themselves into large groups and achieving monumental things. We’ve seen this throughout our history.
Communication through digital interconnectivity, despite geographic proximity, is key. While technology will edge us forward daily into a constant flux of change, exploration and innovation, it is communication that will remain a constant need for man despite it altering in ways that are now only dimly imaginable.
The Death of Distance
Distance is dead.
Long live communication.
Distance has effectively been rendered obsolete.
Internet access has become a commodity and arguably a human right.
Innovation in technology is thriving as a result.
The movement of people, goods, services and ideas are transforming the world.
Long may we celebrate the death of distance.
Limbik Media is a specialist digital performance marketing agency based in the Cape Winelands. Clients span across multiple industry sectors, including finance, fintech, hospitality, property, retail and travel. Geographically, Limbik Media services clients in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg, as well as across 12 Sub-Saharan African markets and the UK. Limbik Media’s mantra is to decomplexify marketing in the digital era, by offering sophisticated simplicity.
Read more about Limbik Media’s service offering and product suite on our website: www.limbikmedia.com