Impact of digitization on business, society and the economy


Today, organizations of all shapes and sizes are starting to use digital technology to bypass the limitations of the physical world. New advances in this field allow them to release their products to the market faster, to reach the right customers, while offering a near perfect user experience. Organizations are continuously adapting to manage the ongoing stream of data, implementing strategic business plans to ensure that the organization remains on top of current trends.

Policymakers today face a different environment for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) than the one for which they designed policies. ICT technologies are far more persuasive than they were previously. More people today have access to mobile phones than to electricity, powering exponential growth in global data generation. With ICT access approaching ubiquity, policymakers’ next challenge is to ensure that individuals, businesses and governments are making the best possible use of networks and applications.

Countries that have achieved levels of digitization-the mass adoption of connected digital technologies and applications by consumers, enterprises, and governments-have realized significant benefits in their economies, their societies and the functioning of their public sectors. Policymakers have an important role to play in ensuring that their countries are progressing toward advanced stages of digitization. They need to acknowledge where they currently stand and recognize the benefits of digitization.

Finally, they need to shift focus away from access and set into motion programmes and plans that focus on the widespread adoption and usage of technology that includes: – the systematic planning and tracking of their efforts, evolving sector governance structure, adopting an ecosystem perspective, enabling competition and stimulating demand.


Digitization is the process of changing from analog to digital form, also known as digital enablement. Digitization takes an analog process and changes it to a digital form, without any different-in-kind changes to the process itself (Source: Gartner Glossary).

In other words, digitization is the process of converting analog signals or information of any form into a digital format that can be understood by computer systems or electronic devices (Source: Techopedia). The term is used when converting information like text, images, voices and sounds into binary code.


While it may seem like a recent development, the trend of converting analog or physical processes and documents has been going on for decades. Digitization essentially began with the advent of computers in the 1950s. Since then, the non-stop march of digitization has transformed nearly everything into computer-friendly 1s and 0s and has challenged the way we walk, communicate, shop, bank, and even how we relax and entertain ourselves.

Here are some of the important milestones in the history of digitization:-

In 1956

  • IBM introduced the business world to magnetic disks and random access data with the 305 RAMAC and the 605 RAMAC (Random Access Memory Accounting), first used in United Airlines reservation system.


  • Not to be outdone by their competitor, American Airlines launched their Sabre flight-reservation system in 1960, which processed 84,000 telephone calls per day and stored 807 megabytes of reservations, flight schedules, and seat inventory.


  • While “cashpoint” machines (early precursors to ATMs) had been introduced in London nearly a decade earlier, the development of digital technology allowed Swedish savings banks to begin testing a networked cashpoint in 1968. The connection with the bank’s computers and digitized files delivered a more complete user experience, as they could now also check their account balances, and withdraw different amounts without interacting with a human teller.


  • FedEx launched its customers, operations, and service Master Online System “Cosmos” digitized the management of people, packages, vehicles, and weather scenarios in real time, allowing unprecedented updates on delivery status.


  • The number of internet users worldwide reached 3 billion.


  • MasterCard and Exela partnered to launch a Request-to-Pay solution, which became the first of its kind enrolled with Pay UK. This technology enables greater communication and flexibility for both billers and payers through a secure unified messaging service.



No matter which industry you are in, everyone is susceptible to disruption. Thanks to digital technologies, new or existing players can revolutionize the way people perceive a product or service; making what other organizations offer in that industry obsolete. Do you want to be disrupted or become the disruptor? The choice is yours. Uber is probably the best and most used example for disruption. The company used business digitization perfectly to provide an unbeatable user experience.

They simply offer a faster, cheaper, more comfortable solution compared to taxi’s services. Ever since they appeared on the market, cab companies have a reason to fear for their existence. Don’t think this can’t happen to you. If someone finds a brand new (and better) way to solve your customers’ problems, you have to respond.

One way to prevent your business from falling behind is to follow industry trends closely, subscribe to every channel that is gaining in popularity, keep track of what your customers, competitors and partners are talking about. These channels can become excellent sources of new ideas and ways to help your target market. You need to take every competitor seriously. A lot of market leading organizations just decide to laugh off newcomers rather than devote time and resources to really get to know their strategy. History tells us that a lot of them wake up one day to realize that they have already fallen behind. Just think about what people said about Twitter back in 2006, and where the service is now.


Irrespective of how efficient you have become by today, there is always room for improvement thanks to new technological solutions. Using outdated legal systems, operating processes manually that could be automated, poor communication between workers and managers, etc. symptoms like these suggest, you are dealing with real problems that can be solved using digital solutions. Business digitization greatly increases speed and efficiency, especially if the system is built specifically around the business.  Also you can finally transition from the pen and paper format to the Cloud, which is beneficial for both the business and the environment.

The fact that you are already using some kind of software, doesn’t guarantee maximum efficiency. Software constantly needs to evolve and adapt to new business conditions and scale together with the organization. If your current software is slow and unreliable with frequent crashes, or incompatible with your newer systems, you probably need to consider updates or replacement. Replacing the inefficient software usually saves you money in the long term, compared to the high costs of maintaining outdated systems.


Do you feel like you put a lot of effort in your business but don’t get the needed results, while the competition seems to have no problem at all? May be you are not offering the right customer experience to your target audience. A fast and smooth user experience is imperative to succeed in the market as customers today are used to instant gratification.

Pizza Hut can be a good example for new and creative customer experience solutions. They know that their customers hate waiting for their food in restaurants. They found a way to fight boredom by making the entire ordering process interactive using touch screens. Guests can even play games together while they wait for their Pizza. Think about your customers’ needs and everyday problems, and try to find new creative solutions for them.


The emphasis here is the importance of data-based decision-making when it comes to online channels instead. Correct use of data, separates successful online campaigns from just throwing money out the window. Data from your social media pages, website, web shop, blog and every other platform you are using should be collected, analyzed and taken into account while executing your online strategy. Tracking conversations, engagement, website traffic, lead generation and other important KPIs is essential to optimize your online efforts.

Most organizations are not using big data to its full potential yet. It is necessary to create a software solution that gathers all the data from social pages and integrates it in a single platform. Having everything in one place can help you gain a deeper insight into your customers’ behaviour and save a lot of time as well. This is one of the endless way business digitization can help you get more value out of your data.


If you start business digitization without adopting to mobile users, you are definitely doing something wrong, People are shopping, browsing and socializing on their phones more than ever, and the numbers just keeping growing. Even if you don’t sell your services through mobile devices directly, you should still find a way to engage mobile users.

Don’t hesitate to develop an app that complements your product. In the health industry, doctors have their hands full with people asking for consultancy, so they needed electronic medical record (EMR) applications to become more time-efficient. The use of these apps now make it possible for patients to track, monitor and save their own data and ask questions through the app, ultimately saving the doctors value time.


Digitization and new technologies allow your business to make the value chain shorter and offer more value to your customers. Today, organizations can take everything into their own hands including distribution, promotion and building brand awareness. You can buy shoes direct from Nike, laptops from Apple and so on.


Ignoring new technologies and solutions will cause you to fall behind to more innovative organizations. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IOT) and big data are just a few examples for technologies that can offer you brand new opportunities. Amazon is a perfect example of digitized organization. They have tons of information about their customers. They are now using AI to predict consumer purchase behaviour to reduce, shipping time as much as possible. Their ultimate goal is to achieve a one-hour delivery time for any order.


Before starting to digitize, it is necessary to formulate a digitization strategy.  The document should provide the following:-

  • A clear description of the purpose and objectives of the exercise.
  • Identifying its scope (still images, audio visual materials, manuscript, etc) and the volume (large-scale digitization or selective digitization).
  • Strategic approaches (cooperating between institutions, domestic resources, outsourcing).

The strategy may contain information on the institutional ecosystem that ensures digitization and digital preservation, as well as a sustainably source of funding for these activities.  Partnership and engagement should be incorporated as a means of leveraging capacity and support for the digitization strategy whose outcomes should also be presented to the public.

The policy which is derived from the strategy should include principles that serve as the conceptual foundation as well as helping to prioritize projects.  Originals shall be maintained and protected under appropriate preservation conditions for as long as they remain useable.

The strategy should also include an intellectual property policy providing guidelines on the management of the intellectual property issues that arise in relation to digitization processes.


  1. The planning process includes:-


  • Identification of materials to be digitize and rights related thereto.
  • Assessment of resources needed.
  • Decisions on standards.
  • Definition of methods and timing of quality control.
  • Assessment of risks, including current and future drawbacks.

(ii) The pre digitization process includes:-

  • The selection of materials to be digitized.
  • Quality control of the objects to be digitized – an assessment of their state of preservation and need of cleaning.
  • Prioritization of digitization.
  • Any treatment that may be required or possible.
  • The collection of metadata (especially descriptive and structural metadata).
  • Bibliographic and archival preparation

(iii)      Digital conversion includes:-

  • Digitization
  • Availability of professional equipment.
  • Quality control
  • The creation of digital masters from which access copies are made.

(iv)      The post digitization process includes:-

  • Control of metadata related to long term preservation
  • Submission of information to delivery and repository systems, data collection and management.
  • Making digitize copies and metadata available online.
  • Assessment and evaluation of the project.
  • Quality control
  1. Intellectual Property Rights

In the digitization process, it is important to ensure respect for intellectual property right from several point of view:-

  • Rights the owners of the original source materials retain in their materials.
  • Rights or permissions the collection developers have to digitize content and/or make it available and/or make otherwise.
  • Interests or permissions the users of the digital collection are given, to have access to and make subsequent use of the materials.

It is important to ensure that, intellectual property and economic or moral rights as well as other rights and interests, including the rights and interests of indigenous people, local communities in traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, are respected and not infringed on.  It is also important to take into accounts the rights and interests of beneficiaries of limitations and exceptions to copyright and of the general public in regard to access to digitized material in the public domain.

  1. Adherence to standards:-

Adherence to internationally recognized standards and best practices facilitates interoperability and long term access to digitized content.  Digitization policy should set out the digitization specifications with a view to preservation, access and anticipated use.

  1. 4. Descriptive metadata:-

Metadata, in a broader sense than descriptive, plays a significant role in the preservation, provenance, exchange, compatibility, and long term sustainable access of and to digital information.  Most of this metadata is created for specialist needs or specific types of materials (technical metadata) or communities of expertise ( e.g. linguistics, music, guidelines, and all processes of creating, maintaining, and sustaining digital information should be mindful of protecting this data in a useable form.

  1. Digital Preservation:-

This includes the processes needed to maintain access to information and the essential elements that make up digital objects.  If access cannot be maintained the information carried by the objects is effectively lost. Preservation is ensured through appropriate management practices which may be conducted in-house or may be outsourced.  It is essential to identify the various stakeholders involved and their responsibilities for preservation and management along with the procedures to be implemented as well as the associated costs etc.

  1. Digital Access:-

Access of digital information should be guaranteed for everyone as a human right.  Digital infrastructure and technology should consider sustainable accessibility.

  1. Digital Repositories:-

Trusted digital repositories should be established to house digitized resources, ensure their authenticity and long term accessibility.


If your organization houses dozens, hundreds or thousands of records in physical form, you might have considered going digital versus maintaining the physical records yourself. Digital converting micro fiche, microfilms, and paper-based documents into an electronic format is a way to safeguard your important materials and provide you with quick and easy access when you need them.

With customer demands and expectations increasing daily, businesses need to seek support in innovative software solutions and technological tools to maintain performance while offering the highest standard of experience.

Outlined below are the key impact of digitization on business:-


Digitization of processes enables organizations to take what were once labour intensive manual processes and turn them into efficient, effective means of gaining control and oversight into the organization. Outdated processes limit potential growth, and manual data entry is not only inefficient, repetitive and time-consuming, but prone to error. This can be remedied by digitizing processes, offering the organization more insight and visibility across the systems of record and opening the door for the explanation of new key metrics.

Collecting these metrics will allow the organization to benchmark process performance providing valuable business insight and impacting corporate decision making. By creating more efficient systems and processes, you allow for projects and key tasks to move forward at a much more rapid pace. Improved efficiency and decision making is driven by optimizing faster, easier and more efficient workflows, allowing employees to focus on what really matters-the work.


Managing physical documents is costly. You will spend time and resources on recurring record management versus the one-time cost of digitization that could reduce overhead and effort in the future. Consider:-

  • The amount of time an employee spends locating records, scanning them, sorting and exporting images or text and returning the document to its correct location. Compare that to how much an employee is making an hour, and you will understand the true cost of maintaining physical records. Many organizations employ a full time clerk to manage their physical records.
  • How much each record is worth. If a record is lost, destroyed, damaged or stolen, what financial impact does that have on your organization? You might have to scramble to replace the record, or spend time finding it. Worse, the record may be irreplaceable, which could cost the organization even more.

This is a direct result of digitization. With technology in place that allows for room to move, for employees, as well as keeping everyone connected all the time, organizations can conduct their business from anywhere. Being able to handle the growing work and demand (scalability) is also enhanced when you have thorough, efficient systems in place.


A business risks losing customers due to poor experience with each additional effort it asks of them. Whether it’s re-submitting forms of personal data, verifying their identity face-to-face, or rescheduling their appointments, it all has impact. However, with digitization all this becomes much simpler and easier to control. Meeting customer needs and providing an improved customer service is a huge benefit of digital transformation.

Better understanding what customers expect, want and need from you, helps you to make the digital calls that enhance your service. Apps, machine learning, automation and so much more allow customers to get what they want, when they want it, without huge workloads on your end. Digital technologies also change customer expectation for a new, modern buyer, so they feel more connected to what you can offer.


The bar has been set high when it comes to modern customer experience, and customers know this.

With the access we have to digital channels, we can cross-compare our user experience with various organizations and applications. Hence businesses that wish to move beyond the confines of their niche and competitors need to look for new ways to improve the experience of their customers’ interaction with their business.

By pioneering a step toward customer service digitization, you present your business as an innovative force in your industry. This grants you a competitive advantage against these organizations that are slow to adapt to trends and changes.


Disaster can strike any time. Fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, bust pipes, structural collapse or theft could leave your organization in a world of pain. Without a backup of your most important documents, your organization is vulnerable to permanent damage and loss. Even a slight temperature change at your organization, can damage records over time. Document scanning means that even if something happens to your physical records, you will have a backup in place to restart normal processes right away.


Physical space for your business is a valuable commodity. Office space can cost anywhere from a couple of dollars per square foot to rent. When you are maintaining physical records, you will need room for the records plus a scanner and space for your employees to scan. You will also have to make sure that space is temperature-controlled and has security measures in place. These costs could add up quickly. The wrong use of space could lead to disorganization and slowed retrieval processes, which then affects accuracy and efficiency. Digitizing micro fiche and other documents means you can cut down on office space costs and use the space for projects that bring more value to your organization.


Data collection and analysis is improved through digitization for almost every industry. Having 24/7 access to your business data and the sophisticated tools that analyze it are massive drivers of change, where being able to gather, examine, process and build upon large volumes of data whenever necessary allows you to operate better, smarter and faster.


Consumer behaviours have gradually been evolving, the speed of which has accelerated because of Covid-19. Businesses that are attuned to these changes will recognize that, meeting new demands will only be possible with technology-the catalyst for innovation and business growth. Technology implementation can also provide protection against economic down turns, as they can help organizations pivot more quickly.


There is no overnight solution to running a business responsibility but businesses can start by investing in the proper technologies, to improve environmental performance. Leveraging these technologies to address social and environmental issues would be crucial to boosting the country’s global competitiveness and attractiveness in terms of doing business, especially now, given that sustainability is progressively securing its place as a core business focus worldwide.


When you are accountable, present and consistent, you are working toward strengthening and enhancing your brand. The ability to update customers regularly, share impressive content and utilize the free marking of social media channels means your organization can watch the real-time benefits of investing in digital transformation.


With so many different channels of communication and devices that consumers use, it can prove challenging to keep track of longer correspondences and histories with different customers. With the help of customer service digitization, businesses are able to provide customers with a centralized system that can log and save all data from interactions with customers (via mobile devices, online channels, call centres, etc.). By offering an Omnichannel approach to customer’s service, organizations can cover wider areas and help more customers while maintaining satisfaction.


Digital technologies have changed our outlook on the world. Many of us believe that technological advancements are a thing of the new age and are future related, which is not valid. Human civilization has been going through digital evolutions since the beginning of time. Society gives technology and technological advancements a sense of purpose as technology helps us make our lives easier.

So from the time, we learnt how to hunt to the present time, technology and technological advancements have been an integral part of human society as detailed below:-

  • We perform most of our activities like shopping, discovering places, paying our bills, etc. online.
  • Today, digital technologies control every aspect of our lifestyle, and we cannot do without it.
  • Digitization is affecting every industry in areas like financial policy, employment and competition.
  • Some of the services and products that were previously analogue, such as travel arrangements, music, film, translations and media, have now become digital.
  • You can sit at home and book your flight tickets, catch up with the latest movies or quickly go through new updates, all in the blink of an eye.
  • Public transportation means like taxis, cars, trains can be booked online via various apps like Uber and Bolt, without even stepping out of your homes.
  • New services are also growing within several industries. Examples are digital payment services like Mobile Wallet, Internet Banking among others.
  • Companies have taken advantage of digital technologies for developing digitally advanced technological business models and new ways of customer communications.
  • Digitization has simplified our daily lives, as well. Today, almost every daily life aspect be it vehicles, household appliances, machines and payment systems built with built-in computers, sensors, raising our living standards effectively.
  • Digital technology also positively impacts our culture’s fundamental aspects, including health care, law enforcement, art, education, mobility and religion. For example, the technological advancements in the health care industry have provided doctors with the opportunity to treat patients in a virtual environment by using mediums like video conferencing. Video conferencing also plays an essential role in the legal environment. It enables judges to listen to the cases of criminals who cannot enter courtrooms because of security reasons.
  • Digital marketing services have become sophisticated, using futuristic technology like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Virtual Reality (VR) extensively in online marketing campaigns.
  • It has led to increased productivity, sales and brand awareness.
  • It has helped in uniting the world and breaking barriers.
  • Even the pandemic has not stopped people from getting what they want. The lock down saw many businesses go through a complete digital transformation and many new companies are completely digital being formed.
  • Today, almost every villager has a touch screen phone that instantly connects them to the rest of the world. Villagers are well aware of happenings not only in their own country, but in other countries as well. The over exposure has made villagers become modern thinking individuals overcoming superstitious and orthodox thinking and believing in concepts of Gender Equality, Liberalism and Equity of All Humans.


Digital technologies-especially connectivity, big data and among others, are transforming every facet of an economy. It has become an imperative for governments to actively drive digitization efforts.

Governments are beginning to play a key role in the digitization of their country’s economy which is impacting industry and citizens-digitizing government ministries, government services, and every interaction with society. A strong digital economy requires a robust digital infrastructure, with digital money, payment and identity being ubiquitous enablers required for the transformation of any industry or society. It will improve how citizens access public and private transportation, health care, education and all of their financial transactions.

National digital identity systems are a foundational element of a robust digital economy and will deliver transparency and efficiency for citizens, government and businesses. The ability of individuals to identify themselves and for governments/businesses to validate that identity is crucial for the effective functioning of a digital economy.

Wherever governments are on their digital journey, by leveraging emerging technologies, they have a tremendous opportunity to deliver more efficient services while reducing costs and freeing up funds to reinvest in new digital infrastructure.

However, as countries and economies become digitized, governments must remain vigilant to cyber threats and have cyber mitigation strategies in place. Cyber resilience is a shared responsibility by all parties to ensure that, a high level of trust is embedded in every transaction between citizens and public sector entities. It will protect their data, help foster innovation and enable financial inclusion. Political and economic leaders play a crucial role in ensuring public policy regulation, and enforcement is in place to support integrity across the network.


Successful digital transformation reaps many rewards for organizations who put in hard work. However, it does not necessarily come with ease because not everyone is willing to get on board. You can never enact change and not receive a level of pushback.

Consequently, the key challenges to be encountered in a digitization exercise include:-


For employees, it could mean a challenge to their role or even a possible loss and this seeps into the culture of the workplace. As a result, these oppositions can lead to trouble with digital projects getting funded or resourced, there are unreasonable levels of certainty required to fund them and often they are completely overlooked. When people are not willing to invest in change, your business suffers.


Without a clear vision of how to meet digital needs, organizations may find themselves lost and uncertain. Overtime, you must develop this vision, set relevant objectives and then execute.


In the age of Facebook and others, we understand more than ever, the importance of customer data. Many organizations are aware and have systems containing this data, but have no clear way of how to use them to their advantage.


Digital transformation is closely linked to the software and IT infrastructure of the business. Therefore, overly complex and rigid IT infrastructure can present many challenges to the transformation. If you continue to rely on a product or principle of structure (that has secured your service in the past, you will not be securing survival in the future). Similarly, if you are not willing to part with your traditional server environment and invest in Cloud services, you are missing out on the benefits of a flexible, more agile workplace. When you accept the risks and cross the murky waters to digital effectiveness, you will discover a level of scale, revenue and profit that you don’t find with legacy infrastructure.


No digital transformation can succeed when IT and business goals do not align. If you are viewing IT as an end unto itself, rather than a means of achieving business goals, you are doing digital transformation wrong. You must ensure a top-down educational approach.


Digital transformation does not always work well for everyone and can mean that there is a lack of expertise in the organization. You may not have hire for technical skills but rather for relevant experience in the field and skills related to this. This creates a shortfall in staff that are equipped to handle and implement digital transformation.


This creates massive obstacle to digital transformation. Sometimes, budgets are designed for at least six months to a year in advance, which makes no room for up-and-coming digital investments. Similarly, budgets are handled by the “top” and redesigning business to create new value comes with limitations and hesitations to enact budget changes from those in control.


The government of Ghana has the goal to make Ghana the hub of digitization in West Africa. The digitization agenda is being spearheaded by the government to formalize and transform Ghana’s economy and further bring about inclusion.

Detailed below are the digital initiatives that have been executed under Ghana’s digitization agenda:-

  • The introduction of Zipline Technology, a medical drone programme which is helping in healthcare delivery especially in the hard-to-reach communities of Ghana.
  • Introduction of Paperless Port System which has reduced turn-around times at the country’s ports.
  • The digitization of DVLA to eliminate corrupt practices.
  • The introduction of Digital Property Addressing System.
  • Issuance of a National ID card.
  • The provision of banking services to every resident of Ghana through the innovative Mobile Payments in interoperability platform.

(Source: Ministry of Communication and Digitization)

It should be noted that, so far Rwanda has billed itself as Africa’s leader in complete digitization. For the past 15 years, the country has been working to digitize its education, health and economy, and now it is pushing to be Africa’s first cashless society in the public sector. Rwanda is already paying its government employees electronically. African countries such as Senegal, Uganda, Tunisia, Morocco, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, and South Africa are also with the most tech hubs in the continent.


Controlling data is something that many organizations need to address, and an increasing number of them are looking towards digitization of important business processes, such as accounts payable and journal entry approvals, as the most effective solution.

One of the most vital aspects of any business today is a transformative customer experience. Imagine a customer walking into a shop or a showroom to buy a product. Many a time when he comes back home and recalls the whole experience, he may not remember the price or for that matter all the features of the products, but he will always remember the experience he may have had at the shop. Thus, no matter how the organization prices or markets its products, it is always important to focus on the “customer experience” for successful business in the long-term.

Undergoing a digitization effort, removes many of the issues that manual, labour intensive processes present to an organization including slower approval times, manual data entry, approval errors and the inability to capture significant cash flow benefits provided by early payment discounts. We live in a digital first world where digitization and its effects are now reaching into every corner of our lives. We belong to “Generation Connected” and it doesn’t matter if you are 5 or 85 years old, technology is reshaping our lives and how we do business. Even the so called lesser tech savvy people will find their way in the digitized world, that’s the reach and penetration of digitization.

On a large scale, digitizing processes gives important organizational decision makers two key things – Control and ability to retain data – both of which are essential in highly regulated industries. The digital world in no way discriminates against certain type of industries, and it is unlikely your industry will not – if it hasn’t already – be affected by this sweeping change.


ROBERT OWUSU is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers (Ghana). A seasoned banker with wide experience in Retail Banking, Internal Auditing, Project Management, Electronic Banking with high specialty in Internet Banking. He is also a Consultant and a Supervisor of Chartered Institute of Bankers (Ghana) examination.


e-mail addresskwa [email protected]; Tel. 0240 821597 & 0546 907904 

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