The Get Digital Conference took place in the Helix theatre on the 11th of April 2017. I listened to talks given by three individuals who are at the helm of pioneering innovation within their respective fields. Each of the three speakers provided extremely interesting insights on how they have utilised technology to deliver a more effective service to consumers, some of which I will share in this blog post.
Dr. Johnny Walker
The 1st speaker of the day was DR. Johnny Walker, CEO & founder of Health Founders, an enterprise that develops exciting new solutions to positively disrupt the healthcare industry. (Health Founders 2017)
One aspect of Johnny’s talk I found particularly interesting was how he actually started his business while on a trip to Australia’s bush region, where would provide mobile ultrasound scans to pregnant women in order to check for any kind of foetal abnormalities. What was more impressive was that he actually did this through the power of a diesel generator off the back of a truck in 1995, a time when technology was still not fully there and the medical profession operated on almost a purely manual basis.
While this may have been suffice for others, it wasn’t for Johnny. He knew there was always going to be more efficient methods of dealing with peoples illnesses through a digital approach and this was something he was determined to pursue. He talked in detail about his humble beginnings in medicine – how he would transfer digital ultrasounds images to a hospital up to 200 miles away via a 3K copper wire for example. I couldn’t help but notice how he made use of every technological resource available to him, no matter how basic it may be in order to make his provision of healthcare more effective.
His application of simple yet effective technology enabled him to link small fragments of Australia together and thereby provide medical service to people who traditionally never would have received it.
Another interesting point that Johnny made was how he viewed Health Founders not so much as a business but as a medical practice. It really became clear to me that his motive to disrupt the healthcare industry was born not so much out of the goal to make a profit but actually out of his own moral obligation to provide help to the people that need it most.
Johnny’s outlook allows him to combine anatomy and physiology with the digital world but still be a doctor and work with patients on a daily basis, which is quite clearly his passion. (John Kennedy 2017)
Another interesting aspect of Johnny’s talk was when he mentioned how the medical industry as a whole shouldn’t just be centred around scheduled appointments. His view is that more of an emphasis should be put on actually keeping people well in the first place and thereby preventing them from needing to see the doctor.
Johnny has created such a simple yet effective digital solution to this problem through the establishment of Electronic Health Records (EHR) for each member of the family. These records are managed by the chief curator of care in the family, the “Jinga” as he calls them, and provide detailed overviews of a person’s health without the need for them to make a wasted trip to a GP. This ensures that people will only visit a doctor when necessary thereby decreasing the excess demand for hospital appointments that has been seen in Ireland in recent years.
Not only that but it allows individuals to have direct online contact with medical professionals from various practices to ask questions or seek advice about their health.
“I never invented anything, all I did was take technology off the shelf and use it to build a better healthcare system.”
This is a point that really resonated with me throughout the duration of Johnny’s speech. Many young people like myself would always have a tendency to look at someone like Johnny as an innovator of the highest level, an individual that thinks it builds it and brings it on to the market all on their own. However this is not always the case and certainly wasn’t with Johnny.
As Johnny said himself he simply finds alternative uses for technology that already exists and applies it to deliver a more efficient service to patients and in turn fulfil his ambition of “disrupting the medical industry for the better”.
The second talk of the day was given by David Erixon, Head of Digital and Customer Innovation at Ulster Bank.
How Sweden is leading the race to become the world’s first cashless society
One of the most interesting points that David made during his talk was how his home nation, Sweden is actually considering introducing a completely digital currency.
Cecilia Skingsley, deputy governor of Sweden’s central bank, Riksbank told the Financial Times in an interview last year that the bank is in the early stage of exploring the idea and is launching a project to explore various possibilities. Issues such as traceability, delivery method and interest on e-money will all be examined by the bank. (Oscar Williams-Grut 2016)
The currency would be known as “ekrona” and would sit alongside coins and notes rather than replacing them. (Oscar Williams-Grut 2016)
It could be said that the proposal itself is based on sound reasoning. According to a study carried out by the Sweden’s central bank Riksbank, cash transactions made up barely 2% of the value of all payments in Sweden in 2015 – a figure some see dropping to 0.5% by 2020. Furthermore, in shops, cash is now used for barely 20% of transactions, half the number five years ago, and waybelow the global average of 75%. (Jon Henley 2016)
However, while Sweden may be the first to issue this digital currency, it is not the only country to make such a move. The UK Home Office told the Treasury earlier this year that there “might be a number of advantages of any digital currency for the UK being created and owned by central government.” (Emily Spaven 2015) Citi also told the government during the same consultation: “The greatest benefits of digital currencies can be realised through the government issuing a digital form of legal tender.” (Rob Price 2015)
This really made wonder if the days of physical coins and notes really are numbered, and if in years to come national and cross border payments will be made purely through digital transactions.
Overall, I found this to be an extremely interesting development, illustrating how as a generation we are adopting an increasingly digital-based approach to banking & finance, particularly as the world moves beyond bricks & mortar trade towards e-commerce.
“Banks can either look at innovation as a threat or an opportunity”
Another interesting point that David made was how banks have not always had a great reputation of progressing with the times. For many years, the industry as a whole showed lack of innovation and willingness to change.
However as the rapid digitization of different industries began to take place, this became a trend that banks simply couldn’t maintain. Consumers in this day and age expect banks to replicate the frictionless experiences they have in other industries. (Jim Marous 2016)
The ability to deliver personalised experiences based on data analytics has been paramount in determining a banks success (Jim Marous 2016) and this is something that Ulster Bank have mastered. Last year, 62% of Ulster Banks customer interactions were digital, compared with 10% in branches. (RTÉ 2017) These figures reflect the “digitization” of the Ulster Bank brand and its ongoing determination to deliver frictionless experiences to consumers.
As David said “banks can either look at innovation as a threat or an opportunity” and it’s clear that Ulster Bank have seen it as an opportunity to change their brand for the better.
The final talk of the day was given by Alistair Croll, visiting executive at Harvard Business School and author of “Lean Analytics”.
A very interesting topic that Alistair discussed was the issue of “discontinuities”. For those of you who are unsure exactly as to what is a “discontinuity”, the Financial Times describes it as an innovation that causes a paradigm shift in science or technology and/or the market structure of an industry. (Financial Times – Lexicon)
How Netflix became a discontinuous innovation
Alistair provided the example of a discontinuity that occurred in the video rental market, a discontinuity that propelled streaming service Netflix to the top and drove the rental chain Blockbuster into bankruptcy.
In the early 2000’s, Blockbuster was a market leader in the video rental market, with millions of customers, massive marketing budgets and efficient operations. (Greg Satell 2014)
However, it’s safe to say that their business model also had a lot of weaknesses. For example, a large proportion of its revenue was made by charging its customers late fees. In essence, the company’s profits were highly dependent on penalizing its patrons. (Greg Satell 2014)
At the same time, Netflix had a lot of things going for it. As the company didn’t operate any retail stores it could offer a greater variety of TV shows and movies to customers at a lower cost. In addition, the company operated, as they do today, a subscription service rather than a rental service, so late fees didn’t exist. (Greg Satell 2014)
However one of the main things Alistair made me realise about Netflix is that it had a lot of confidence in its model of providing an exclusively digital streaming service to customers. Netflix saw the growing impact that new technology was having in different markets and wanted to be part of it. They pre-empted the demands of the 21st century consumer and developed an innovation using existing technology, to meet these demands and disrupt the market.
As Alistair said “it’s not interesting because of the technology , it’s interesting because it changes our ability to conceive the world in a different way.” I for one couldn’t imagine our world without Netflix, however I think our days of waiting in line to pay for our Friday night video at Blockbuster are well and truly over. (Megan O’Neill 2011)
Overall , The Get Social Conference 2017 was an extremely enjoyable event. We received talks operating in completely different industries, from healthcare all the way to data analytics. However, there was one theme that was common throughout the duration of the conference – Disruption, and how it is being manifested through innovation that is moving at an accelerating pace.
Reference List/Sources of Extra Readings:
Health Founders 2017. Disrupting Healthcare for the Better [Online]. Available from: http://www.healthfounders.com/ [Accessed 26 April 2017].
John Kennedy 2017. The incredible medtech journey of Dr Johnny Walker [Online]. Available from: https://www.siliconrepublic.com/start-ups/johnny-walker-interview [Accessed 26 April 2017].
Jinga Life 2016. A Digital Health Enterprise Empowering The Key Carer in The Family… The Jinga! [Online]. Available from: http://www.jinga.life/ [Accessed 26 April 2017].
Oscar Williams-Grut 2016. Sweden could become the first major country to issue a national digital currency [Online]. Available from: http://uk.businessinsider.com/swedish-central-bank-considers-digital-national-currency-ekrona-2016-11 [Accessed 26 April 2017].
Jon Henley 2016. Sweden leads the race to become cashless society [Online]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jun/04/sweden-cashless-society-cards-phone-apps-leading-europe [Accessed 26 April 2017].
Emily Spaven 2015. The UK government wants to create its own digital currency so it can track peoples transactions [Online]. Available from: http://uk.businessinsider.com/the-uk-government-wants-to-create-its-own-digital-currency-2015-6 [Accessed 26 April 2017].
Rob Price 2015. The UK government is being urged to create its own digital currency [Online]. Available from: http://uk.businessinsider.com/uk-government-should-make-digital-currency-citi-bitcoin-consultation-document-2015-5 [Accessed 26 April 2017].
Jim Marous 2016. Digital Innovation Transforming the Banking Industry [Online]. Available from: https://thefinancialbrand.com/58416/digital-innovations-transforming-banking/ [Accessed 26 April 2017].
RTÉ 2017. Ulster Bank to close 22 branches in Ireland, more RBS branches to close in UK [Online]. Available from: https://www.rte.ie/news/business/2017/0323/862013-ulster-bank-to-close-22-branches-across-ireland/ [Accessed 26 April 2017].
Financial Times – Lexicon 2017. Definition of discontinuous innovation [Online]. Available from: http://lexicon.ft.com/Term?term=discontinuous-innovation
Greg Satell 2014. A Look Back At Why Blockbuster Really Failed And Why It Didn’t Have To [Online]. Available from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/gregsatell/2014/09/05/a-look-back-at-why-blockbuster-really-failed-and-why-it-didnt-have-to/#7e7634c71d64 [Accessed 26 April 2017].
Megan O’Neill 2011. How Netflix Bankrupted And Destroyed Blockbuster [INFOGRAPHIC] [Online]. Available from: http://www.businessinsider.com/how-netflix-bankrupted-and-destroyed-blockbuster-infographic-2011-3?IR=T [Accessed 26 April 2017].