The ability to send lightweight packages to consumers within 24 hours was inconceivable 50 years ago.
Rapid development and adoption of technology can present opportunities and risks to exporters. It’s therefore important to learn how to predict what effect technology may have on your industry so that you can best position your business to prosper.
There’s little doubt that digital electronics is revolutionising the music and video industries as shoppers abandon CDs in favour of online streaming. Advances in biotechnology, like tumour-fighting immune cells that attack cancer to engineered tobacco plants used as biofuel, can have significant implications for the medical and energy industries.
All of these developments in technology change the way people work and live. The effect robotics and the internet have had on business are good examples on how production processes and ways of trading can change when new technology is introduced. Only 50 years ago it would have seemed impossible to have next-day international parcel deliveries.
It’s important to look at the ways in which technology affects society in order to be able to predict whether the products you make or sell will become pervasive or obsolete. This will inform decisions on whether products need to be adapted so that they meet the needs of the changed society. If technology is enabling people to live longer or making the planet warmer, this may present opportunities for new products and services.
If the whole world adopted technology at the same rate, then exporters would simply take products sold in their domestic market and make them available overseas. But, like people, countries can also be early or late adopters of technology. This means there will be higher demand for different products in different markets and these will need to be distributed and promoted in different ways.
Less than five percent of the population in countries like the Ivory Coast or Mozambique are internet users, yet the percentage of people with mobile telephone subscriptions in those countries is comparable to developed nations like the United Kingdom, Sweden and the United States. The rapid adoption of smartphones in Africa means marketing channels need to be carefully considered there as it’s likely that a mobile app will be more successful than a website.
GDP per capita (see glossary) tends to be a reliable predictor of the proliferation of technology in nations. The correlation means assumptions can be made on the level of technological advancement and that impacts how you’ll get products to consumers and the way in which you’ll be communicating with consumers.