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Sustainability, AI, and growing uncertainty.

Digital Trends & Challenges 2024

The Danish digital pioneer Janus Boye has once again answered our most burning questions at the end of the year. We’ve talked about THE topic of 2023 and looked at the challenges of 2024.

Janus Boye has been working in the field of innovation and digital leadership for 25 years. For many years, he and byte5 have been connected on friendly terms, and every December, we discuss possible trends and challenges. 

In your last byte5 interview, you spoke about a significant realization at the end of last year: the importance of sustainability in digitalization. How has that developed in 2023? 

Unfortunately, we're still very much at the beginning. Some understand the importance of implementing digital solutions sustainably, with less CO₂. But there's still a huge need for education. In my opinion, there isn't a general understanding of it yet, and we have a long way to go. However, sustainability is more than just CO₂; it also involves diversity and inclusion. Perhaps we've made a little progress in that regard, but we're still not there yet.

Around this time last year, my focus was on CO₂. How do we make websites leaner, with less CO₂ consumption? And we have to talk about it: Regardless of how big or small the website, app, or digital solution is—every bit counts! Especially concerning CO₂, videos and high-resolution images have quite the impact.

But over the course of the year, I also realized that digitalization is part of the solution to climate change. We won't achieve our goals without digital solutions. For instance, there are apps like Too Good to Go. Using the app consumes CO₂, but the advantage of combating food waste through the app outweighs it. 

A crucial realization for me last year was this: When we work with Umbraco or other solutions, there's a server somewhere in a data centre or a cloud, and surprise—it also consumes CO₂. But this year, I didn't feel that customers are quite aware of this yet. I think it's similar to data privacy and accessibility: It doesn't happen automatically – we’ll need policies or regulations.

What was the most defining theme for you in the year 2023? 

This won't surprise you: 2023 was the year of Artificial Intelligence (AI). It's strange because it's not actually intelligent. But maybe that's why so many people talk about it: the term intelligence scares us and creates uncertainty. People think about science fiction movies. And now with ChatGPT, it becomes reality. Even though it's not genuinely thinking on its own. You type something in, and the tool processes it. However, there have been numerous examples showing that it's not truly intelligent. Perhaps we can expect that next year. I've been doing this since the late 90s. Digitalization is a journey, and along the way, there have been some innovations that have shaped the world: iPhone, YouTube, Facebook—quite a lot has happened. But this year, ChatGPT has significantly influenced conversations, exchanges, and conferences. 

So, what can we expect in 2024 with AI? 

Perhaps it’s currently a bit exaggerated how much AI can do and how much it will change. For me, two aspects are clear: Firstly, we're quite unprepared. If we compare it to social media, it took 10 to 15 years, and now we're slowly understanding how it affects not just digitalization but also democracy. There's now a growing understanding that Facebook can have a negative impact, that it polarizes, for example with fake news. Unfortunately, we're just as poorly prepared for all the issues that come with AI.

Secondly, it's clear to me that with AI, some jobs will disappear. However, AI and machine learning will become a part of most jobs. Throughout this year, I've had many conversations with people in our expert groups who use it as a supporting tool. There will be a huge adjustment, and it might cost some jobs that we no longer need. Automation is a significant keyword here. The issue has receded a bit because of AI, but it's coming faster than you might think. Repetitive tasks can be automated. But for other jobs, ChatGPT and other AI tools are merely used, similar to Google Maps or a spell checker, to support our work.

However, in the professional context, expectations will surely rise because with the help of tools, work can be done faster. Companies like byte5 and other digital service providers have always set priorities with clients: What do we do first? Which languages do we implement first? What features do we need from the start? In the future, more will be implemented in a shorter time, and customers will expect that.

The technical side of AI also amazed me at the beginning of this year. Until then, ChatGPT was just a text tool for me. But now, I've seen several times how very good developers use GitHub Copilot or similar AI tools. It helps them be more productive and that makes a tremendous difference. A year ago, this was unimaginable. 

What digital and technical challenges should we prepare for in 2024? 

The market has become more confusing for customers than before. Five years ago, you'd have said: let's use Umbraco and get started. But today, it's not just Umbraco; it's Umbraco with additional integrated solutions. You also have to consider: what does the customer expect? And currently, many new tools are on the market. This shapes many companies and corporations, some of which currently run on outdated systems. There's a need for a web solution, but the implementation is unclear.

A challenge for all companies from recent years remains: how do we find good people? It hasn't gotten any easier. The challenge is to create a good workplace where talented people want to stay. 

A technical challenge in the near future will also be keeping up with tool and AI development. There's a lot going on, and currently, we don't know how many manufacturers will even exist in a year. This creates uncertainty: which manufacturers and platforms can we rely on in the long run? Beta tools pose a risk for companies: is there support? Is there a hotline? Will the tool be available in the long term?

In the digital environment, everything is moving very fast: no-code, automations, AI, machine learning. We've learned a lot of new things this year. And my takeaway is that we need to invest more time in learning, reading, and our own further education. 

Thank you very much, dear Janus, for the exciting insight into what awaits us in the coming year.