Society is the engine of change – digitization only accelerates it
What was unthinkable not long ago has come true: a stranger is spending the night in your apartment – the reservation was made through an online portal and you don’t have to be at home. Instead of owning a car, you share one with strangers. Societal standards are constantly evolving and, with them, the foundation for successful business models. Technical innovations allow their implementation. In addition, they intensify structural change and thus contribute to prosperity.
30 years ago a car was a status symbol. The parish priest and the schoolmaster were still sometimes reference persons in the village and the entrepreneurs talked politics in the bistro. They were benchmarks for individuals. Today, “Like” mentions on Facebook, tweets or comments about articles posted on online platforms is what makes the status. I say this without value judgment. In reality, social norms and habits have always evolved. However, their upheaval has never felt so deep and rapid.
Changing standards are a driving force behind the transformation of society. Technical developments – we also speak of “digitization” – act as a catalyst. Indeed, the technique creates new possibilities and allows the implementation of evolutions.
Changes can be positive as long as they are also structural.
With this catalyst, national borders become secondary. The cost of transactions is falling. Products and services reach people in a more targeted way than in the past and therefore gain critical mass more quickly. This is the case with food for allergy sufferers, furniture or clothes that are no longer “trendy” and become affordable. Established businesses face new competition.
These very rapid changes also naturally lead to contrary movements. National states are gaining in importance in the eyes of the population. The German-speaking magazine “Landliebe” (love of the country, in French) is the Swiss magazine with the largest circulation. However, this overall technical development is positive: Switzerland has achieved prosperity that our ancestors could not have imagined.
Changes can be positive as long as they are also structural. As an open country with a small indigenous market, we have a lot of experience in structural adaptations. If, in the 1970s, Switzerland had persisted in producing machines along the same lines, the industry would have disappeared. Today, it still contributes 25% to the creation of Swiss value.
Experience shows that only those who question their strengths and identify lucrative niches are internationally competitive. Regulatory support for these very rapid changes must be placed in an economic perspective and focused on the long term. We can break with the structures in place. The bans and attempts to ban technical developments in Switzerland are not helping anyone: neither the industries that are under pressure nor the business models involved or the jobs.
The future belongs to those who reflect on core values as well as their own strengths and focus on them. With such approaches, Switzerland and its inhabitants will emerge as winners from digitalization.
This article is part of our digital economy series. Next week, learn about the Federal Customs Administration (AFD) Electronic Customs Procedures Project.