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Travelling today is significantly different than a few decades ago and the world has indeed become smaller for those of us who have the privilege to travel frequently. I guess the introduction of the Internet and the possibilities to do business online are the biggest contributing factors.
Airline, hotel, car rental bookings can all be done online, as well as payments. What it requires though is a computer and access to the Internet of course. Over the past few months I have travelled extensively with indeed only online bookings of flights, hotels and rental cars. Interestingly enough the bookings are often not done directly with service provider but with a booking site in between.
In the Netherlands, reduced train tickets for example, are now also offered by department stores or particular shops. An older lady wanted to make us of the opportunity and asked the casher to sell her a train ticket, at a reduced rate, as advertised by the store. The casher then printed a voucher for the lady, with instructions how to validate the voucher online. The lady protested she did not have a computer and did not know how to go about this. Luckily another customer was kind enough to offer help, otherwise the lady would have been stranded in the process.
While the world is digitalising at an ever increasing speed, those without the capacity and opportunity to access the Internet will be left behind. It is important for companies and institutions to realize that and continue providing services as people are used too.
To be able to buy a ticket online or the rent a car, one also needs a credit card of course and the possibility to do online banking. Many service providers, like banks but also government institutions, now make use of digital letters instead of hard copies. I visited some places in China recently as well and as if I was not aware of it already, I was struck by the level of infrastructural and digital development. In comparison, we have not even started.
Indeed, the development of technology worldwide is happening at ever increasing speed. The capacity of computers are increased continuously to be able to run ever more complex and bigger programs and software. With it the connectivity around the world is being developed further and further and services are provided to end users that are capable of dealing with the bigger and more complex systems. The globalization of the Internet makes it possible for millions to connect and communicate with the rest of the world, but only those who have sufficient access will be able to make the most effective use of it.
This is where we meet a challenge, while the global ITC revolution continues to take place, our local systems must keep up with the new developments. If we don’t keep up with the same pace we will be left behind.
Many of us will remember the 2004 Olympic 5000 meter race, during which both Haile Gebre Selassie and Kenenisa Bekele ran. Halfway into the race Haile could not keep up anymore with the pace set by Kenenisa and in an effort to get Haile back into the race, Kenenisa slowed down a bit, which allowed Haile to catch up indeed. A wonderful demonstration of sportsmanship and respect. It did not take long though before Haile lost connection with the front runners again and now Kenenisa decided to move on in order to secure his win.
Is it not the same in the global arena, where some developed countries are willing to stretch out and land a hand to support development efforts of least developed countries? But their support only goes so far and our ability to make the most use of it depends on our own capacity to keep up with the pace of development around us.
“Can we keep up with the pace though?”, is then the question. “Do we have that capacity to keep up?”
We certainly have the capability I would say and with it come opportunities. In fact, developing countries are in a position to leapfrog development as we do not have to pass through the teething problems that others have gone through before us. We could invest in applying the latest systems and technology immediately instead of those that are already – if only a few – years old. Because a few years old is already outdated and becomes incompatible very soon.
We now live in a time during which new technologies are developed all the time and will continue to be developed at ever increasing speed in order to adapt to climate change and to preserve the resources of this world. Changes in the way we live, produce and consume are urgently required indeed and these changes may come very fast indeed.
We better catch up and position ourselves in the slipstream of the world that is ahead of us, otherwise we may find ourselves left behind.


Happy new year!
Ton Haverkort
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