A phone by itself is relatively useless, even if it is connected to landlines (remember them?) or a mobile network. It’s the second phone that makes the first useful. And then when millions of people have a phone, the value of a phone jumps exponentially.
The same is true about many digital transformation initiatives. The ‘MVP’ or the innovation breaking through a hard problem by themselves may be interesting, but by themselves have little value. It’s in the using that the value is realised. And the using often happens in an ecosystem.
So when we digitalise identity documents, cash, or anything else, the initial step of digitalising the ‘thing’ may feel like the hard part, but actually is the easy part. Building the network in which whatever we build can be used is the hard part – the part that makes it useful.
One matters little, two brings novelty, but three, three creates change. We often focus on the idea, on the technology, and forget the ecosystem which is required for the idea to flourish. And yes, sometimes the ‘network’ is the internet and connectivity, but almost always it is more than this. Almost always it includes people, ‘users’. And people come with stories, with culture, and with context.
Again phones are relatively useless unless two (or more) people want to talk to each other.