Sustainability, environmental concerns, and digital transformation have become pivotal subjects in the strategic dialogues surrounding both business and governmental policies. Addressing contemporary global challenges, the 3rd “IEEE-TEMS International Conference on Technology and Entrepreneurship 2023” convened in Kaunas, attracting numerous experts from the realms of business, academia, and government innovation worldwide.
Held at Kaunas University of Technology, the conference focused on sustainability and digital transformation, prompting innovation professionals to explore how various sectors of our society can adapt to modern challenges.
In an exclusive interview, Taeho Park, an esteemed professor of innovation at San Jose State University (USA), graciously shared his insights on these crucial topics.
How do technologies impact sustainable changes in society? What trends do you see in this context?
The technology is impacting sustainability in many ways. It accelerates sustainability and society’s change. The data will also impact human life. Sustainable development requires several dimensions. One is the growth of the company, another one is the environmental consideration and human interests. For example, even phones impact the sustainability of society because all people are connected to each other and then they may also help each other. So, the main focus of sustainability is about the human life. If it doesn’t affect human life, then probably people don’t pay attention to sustainability.
The companies, as well as entrepreneurs, when designing or developing new technology products, must think about sustainability. Now, they are not like in the past, when they heavily focused on their company’s goal of eventually earning money. Now, they have to think about other aspects, like environmental issues and human life issues. Unless they consider it, the technology that they are developing may have an impact. For example, renewable energy technology or other initiatives are welcomed by the government, because they are affecting people, they are affecting the earth.
If a developer or entrepreneur only thinks the way technology should be developed and designed, then it doesn’t work. They also have to look at the people and society. People sometimes also think that we need a certain technology to improve our environment and our lives. Then, those inventors, entrepreneurs, and developers get a voice from society and try to meet society’s needs. So, in other words, both of them should collaborate together and then work for society.
In your opinion, in what direction digital transformation will shape society in the future? Where are we moving?
The digital transformation should look at the society’s needs. There are two ways. Developers can look at people’s needs and invent something or suggest new technologies that society didn’t know about. For example, Steve Jobs and “Apple” did this with a CD player, transforming it in a totally digitized way. Also, they changed the delivery of the songs and music quality. Also, now you don’t have to carry many devices and worry about the device’s capacity. So, in some way, developers can create a new idea by themselves and then lead it. However, the final destination should be for society.
Another example could be artificial intelligence (AI). AI development was started in the 1900s. But at the time, it was for experts only. Then, starting in 1999, neural network technology came out. However, at the time, the capability of the computing system was very expensive, and computer speed was very slow. Although the idea of a neural network was fascinating because of limitations, the better AI researchers didn’t publish much. Later, computer technology and storage became much cheaper, and in that way, the data became available. And then also computing speed became faster. In my opinion, AI will advance fast this time because of computer technology and big data. So, AI will definitely impact our lives, but it may be difficult to predict how it will affect them.
In your opinion, in what direction should business move today?
Business and technology are connected. One good example is the “Apple” case. Apple almost died when Steve Jobs left the company, and it only came back to life after Steve Jobs came back and started working on sort of a new technology – the iPad. Since the iPad was successful in the business, they got the money and started developing other technologies. This example shows that you never know what is going to happen in the business.
Since we are talking about technology transformation, the business should move toward a certain way to accommodate society’s needs. Now, society needs businesses to consider sustainability. Investment in sustainability may impact business profits, but if society accepts changes, then they can sell more products.
When a company designs a product, they have to think about sustainability and human life. It may be a bit difficult and overwhelming, but it is the only way to create today.
Discussion and partnership with Taeho Park is a part of the “IN4ACT” project, implemented by the Kaunas University of Technology School of Economics and Business and financed by the European Union project “Horizon 2020”. More about “IN4ACT”: https://in4act.ktu.edu/