Everything is Technology

So, having pondered the merits and likely outcome of the UK government's Year of Code initiative, you could rightly be left to ponder, "who cares?". A lot of the UK's population may not consider themselves hugely tech savvy, and certainly not formally trained in tech, and we are getting by. The country has naturally produced enough nerds/tech folk to keep us as a respectable tech power in the modern world. Plus, kids these days are so emersed with tech/internet/mobiles they will be naturally equipped for the future world of work.


A little while ago, Marc Andreessen (of Silicon Valley Venture Capital firm Andreessen Horowitz) wrote an article titled "Why software is eating the world", referring to the pervasiveness of tech and how slowly, tech, and the internet, is disrupting more and more industries, changing the way they operate and where/how they compete for profit.

So the question is, will being "power users" on Facebook, CandyCrush, Twitter, etc be enough in the predicted software devoured world?

Some obvious examples of industries that are now tech industries spring to mind:
  • Amazon - completely changed the face of retail and is almost single handedly making high streets around the uk obsolete
  • iTunes et al - once again, changed the face of the music industry, record shops etc
  • AirBnB - changing the way that people think about travel and disrupting the hotel/holiday accommodation industry.

High profile and a very real, visible impact on the economy, and as Andreesen quotes in his article:
"Today, the world's largest bookseller, Amazon, is a software company—its core capability is its amazing software engine for selling virtually everything online, no retail stores necessary. On top of that, while Borders was thrashing in the throes of impending bankruptcy, Amazon rearranged its web site to promote its Kindle digital books over physical books for the first time. Now even the books themselves are software."

The important bit being "its core capability is its amazing software engine" - Amazon isn't a retail business, its a tech business - its core skills and expertise, and the majority of its employees are in tech.  The fact that it can branch out so easily into its Cloud services is testament to that. They have an amazing tech platform, with amazing tech folk, that is their business.

So that's an obvious example - we aren't all going to be working at Amazon/Google etc. But the thing is, its not just the obvious examples that are being disrupted. Let's look at an industry that is apparently yet to be disrupted: insurance. Any big online insurers coming in and turning things on their head the way amazon did retail? Nope. Look for any form of personal insurance in the UK and lots of familiar names still come up: The AA, Tesco, First Direct, Royal & Sun Alliance etc. Look a bit beneath the surface though, and you will realise the industry has really become a tech arms-race. Aggregator websites like money supermarket.com or comparethemarket.com have indirectly completely changed the industry with tech.

What was once a very personal industry, all about understanding people & risks and where an experienced actuary held the power, has become a race to the bottom in terms of latency and efficiency for quote generation.  The aggregator sites drive so much traffic to insurers (approximately 60% of all insurance quotes originate from these sites), and such high volumes (~10-11 million a month) that to stay in business, insurers have to have the tech to serve up quotes a) faster than others b) cheaper than others.

If your system costs a penny more to generate a quote than your competitor, at 11 million quotes a month, that's an extra £110,000 you need to generate every month (thats the cost just to generate the quotes - if you don't actually manage to convert any of those quotes, that's a pretty quick path to bankruptcy), which is most likely going to push up your premiums, which will in turn decrease your chance of conversion.

Honestly, with so many of these companies having to support monolithic legacy tech systems, I would be surprised if they didn't soon get replaced - all a start-up would need is financial backing to underwrite the claims, and a few decent tech folk to build a web friendly (web services, REST etc.) insurance system, built with aggregators in mind plus a slick web app to allow easy (and free) policy management, and they could probably undercut and offer better customer service than the all the big guns so severely that they would have no choice but retire.


No. Not really. 

Does everyone need to know how to code? Of course not. The point of introducing tech more prominently to the curriculum is obviously far from aiming to turn all of the future generations into coders. It is simply just to raise awareness/understanding of computers, and possibly slightly increase the number of coders we produce. It is after all only raising tech so its seen more alongside other key subjects like maths, science, english etc and we haven't all turned out to be mathematicians have we?

The uk has a great history of scientists, writers, artists and also computer scientists, but these days when people talk global tech Silicon Valley always comes up first. Would be good if we started to change that right?

Everything Is Everything.. Change, it comes eventually.

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