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Society 5.0: Technology at the Service of Sustainability and Quality of Life

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Miguel Teixeira is the CEO for the multinational consulting firm NTT DATA, for the Americas, which includes Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, and the United States. He holds a degree in Computer Engineering from Higher Technical Institute of Lisbon (Portugal) and has done several postgraduate courses in Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Project Management at Lisbon Catholic School of Business and Economics.Miguel has more than 20 years of experience in IT and consulting, local and international project management in companies such as Eurociber (Portuguese consulting firm), Tietoenator (the largest Nordic consulting firm) and has developed the bulk of his career in ever is now called NTT DATA. 

 

The thought of applying technology to maximize profitability – often aimed exclusively at the search for savings or cost cuts – is, right now, archaic. We are entering the era of Society 5.0, in which there is no innovation without a sustainable perspective and the purpose of each new implementation is to find a mechanism to improve people’s lives.

The concept of Society 5.0 emerged in Japan just five years ago and is based on four previous stages: a society focused on hunting, then on agriculture, then on industry, and then on information. In this new evolution, the most important aspect is to put technology at the service of people. Focusing on the short term is no longer viable: organizations whose strategic plan continues to focus on earning more money are ceasing to be attractive not only to customers, who increasingly seek to consume products and services from brands that display values to which they relate, but also to investors, who tend to choose responsible companies to invest their funds, and, most importantly, to talent.

Motivation, meaning, and belonging

The purpose of an organization is what generates motivation, meaning, and belonging in its staff. Companies that show ethical and transparent behavior and that carry out concrete actions that generate a positive social or environmental impact are quickly becoming the “best places to work.” Indeed, a study of 26.000 LinkedIn applicants from 40 countries found that 74% need to feel that “their work is important.” This is in line with Mercer’s analysis that identified “purpose” as one of the top three priorities for talent when choosing where to build their career.

In this regard, Society 5.0 incorporates an additional challenge: finding the right balance between personalization – that is, giving each person the working conditions they need to unleash their full potential – and collaboration – which, despite the diversity of work set-ups, everyone can work together and in pursuit of common goals. The answer to this dilemma is “resilient generosity”: being generous with others stimulates the generosity of others with oneself.

A recent Gartner report estimated that, by 2025, employee-related metrics, such as well-being, burnout, or brand satisfaction, will outweigh other financial ones, such as ROI, by 30%.

Technology as a foundation

The technological advances of recent years have given us the tools to make the vision of society 5.0 possible. The maturity of artificial intelligence, the new use cases that appear every day around blockchain, the ability to connect practically any object through the internet of things, the unlimited speed of the new 5G telecommunications technology, and the power to process the enormous volume of data that is generated and obtain insights and actionable knowledge from it, just to name a few of the most relevant innovations, open the doors for us to create unforgettable experiences for people, generate unprecedented efficiencies, or launch products and services in record time.

But they are also the basis for creating smart cities in which citizens do not have to spend hours to complete a transaction or commute between two locations, rethink the educational system, take the health system to new levels of excellence, or guarantee the safety of the inhabitants of a certain region. New technologies are the key to developing and testing renewable energies, medicines and treatments, waste recycling and recovery strategies, reducing the carbon footprint, promoting inclusion and diversity, multiplying and making food production and distribution more efficient, taking care of natural resources or, something that is critical in regions like Latin America, where the gap is still significant, solve social inequality. They even serve to predict environmental catastrophes or climatic episodes.

Efficiency and experience must never be at odds: if a new technology is capable of solving millions of customer queries in a minute in an automated way through a robot but does not provide an option to speak to a human being in extraordinary events, then that is not a solution designed for a world 5.0.

Focus on people

We live in a world of uncertainties: inflation is well above desirable levels, even in countries that have been keeping it under control for years; Europe is experiencing a warlike scenario after seven decades, which stirs not only the ghosts of war, but also energy problems and a looming recession. Even in these contexts, new technologies, designed under the umbrella of Society 5.0, open up opportunities for improvement and solutions. We witnessed concrete results during the pandemic: the companies that had made the most progress in terms of digitization were the ones that obtained the best results; schools were able to continue operating thanks to digital educational platforms; people flocked to video calling solutions to continue working from home; medical appointments continued remotely. In a crisis of enormous proportions, we managed to build resilience, accelerate digital transformation, or develop vaccines extremely quickly. All these achievements were only possible due to new technologies.

But there is also what constitutes the true center of Society 5.0: human beings. They are the ones who provide the talent to build the solutions and are also the ultimate beneficiaries of the Innovations. It is not a utopia: it is a potentially tangible reality that requires a strong commitment and a lot of involvement from governments, the private sector, academia and, of course, individuals. The challenges are enormous: a significant cultural change is still required, given that we have been focused on shorter-term approaches for a long time, but also solving technical issues – such as all those linked to cybersecurity – and regulatory ones – especially those related to sharing information and taking care of data privacy. The race has already started. And the stimulus to reach the goal is nothing less than a better quality of life for each person in this world.

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