Digitalization – What is it?

Before I start writing on Digitization/Digitalization, maybe we should spend a little time in exploring the alternative “Analogization”! Now I have made up that word and probably the more appropriate word might be “Materialization”[1][2] but comparing the past/existing with the upcoming/future will give a perspective and provide a context for my thoughts.

As human beings, we have been generating information right from the start of our existence and materializing it as physical objects. These physical objects were hard to manage, cross-reference, study & derive from. With the new age technologies, we are now at a stage where we can convert all the physical form of materializing information into digital bits & bytes that can be read, stored, coded and decoded by computers (Digitization).

Digitization of information is not only limited to converting materialized formats (image, text, sound, etc.) to digital ones but also to create an environment / eco-system around data which had no prior existence in any usable sense.

To give an example, I get stuck in traffic while going to the workplace every day at certain times. Digitization of this information allows for something known as extrapolation[3] which when combined with similar data from millions of users allows one to predict accurately as to for what time he/she will be stuck in traffic and probable solutions to avoid the same!

Targeted advertisements[4] and the more recent and sinister Cambridge Analytica scandal[5][6] and “vote steering”[7] are very much applicable (maybe somewhat immoral) uses of such information. But before I write more, I would again like to differentiate between data[8] and information[9]. In general, data by itself makes little sense unless and until it is put into a context which then gets transformed into information.

So “Digitalization” itself allows for converting data into information very quickly and in most cases in very sensible ways. This allows for and facilitates changes in processing, interpretation, replication, and application of the information in various aspects. The impact of Digitalization is not local and can have an impact on totally unrelated fields/markets. An example is an enhancement in Artifical Intelligence algorithms[10] which can create fake videos!

Can you see Mona Lisa talking in the above picture? Now the impact of this research is not only on Mona Lisa or image processing fields. This technology can be used to create information which can influence morals, ethics, freedom, democracy, art, literature, etc.

Digitization has helped with:
– Faster collection of data
– Faster generation of data
– Faster and deep cross-referencing of data

Digitalization, on the other hand, has helped with:
– Replication, extrapolation & interpolation of data
– Finding relationships between variables in totally unrelated/unexpected ways
– Contextualizing data and generating information impacting
* Eco-system
* Processes & ways of working
* Influencing individuals & societies alike

To end, I would say that “Digitalization” is here to stay. It is up to us to accept it, embrace it and drive it in a more thoughtful pattern. Materialization (Analogization) is of a foregone era. Transformation of various markets, innovation, business, eco-system, technology, rules & regulations, IPRs, etc. is happening at an unimaginable pace because of digitalization.

Even professions which have been termed as less likely to be automated (eg: Teaching) is already heavily influenced. My daughter’s MATH teacher is a website named “” and for many people, YouTube is a better place of learning than traditional classrooms (MIT OpenCourseWare)!

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