Digital technology encompasses a broad spectrum, from fitness trackers, cloud computing and data analytics to workplace management software. What technology will best assist each industry varies.
In the mining sector, where Australia has been at the forefront of using technology to improve various processes, scientists have been using big data and network theory to help predict the locations of new deposits. This in turn reduces the cost and negative environmental impacts of mineral exploration by helping companies to drill down into more specific areas rather than use a more “scatter-gun” approach.
Mining companies are also leading the way in the use of autonomous vehicles. For example, Rio Tinto has been using autonomous haulage system trucks since 2008, with approximately 20 per cent of its existing fleet now autonomous.
By contrast, in agriculture, where the uptake of digital technology is very low compared with other industries, the report identified substantial scope for using technology to help reduce costs and increase overall productivity.
For example, sensors can be used to collect data about environmental factors to allow for more strategic deployment of irrigation rather than simply setting sprinklers to a generic timing system. Drones can help farmers quickly pinpoint dry areas or be used to spray crops in a way that is cheaper than traditional machine methods.
Small business can also become more efficient by adopting new technologies. For example, gelato favourite Messina grew rapidly after adopting the use of Australian management software Deputy, which is designed to help businesses better manage their payrolls, staff rosters and timesheets.
The report considered the emergence of new digital technologies so significant that it underpins “the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.
The economic impacts of this “revolution” are being seen globally, with the top five global companies by market capitalisation all digital giants: Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon and Tencent. In August 2018, Apple became the world’s first trillion-dollar company, and Amazon followed shortly after reaching a trillion dollars in September.
The report concluded that businesses across all industries have a way to go in harnessing the full potential of digital technologies.