Do you Digitize or Digitalize?

For our upcoming report on Asset Integrity Management, we interviewed several leading participants in the space. During our discussions, one leading trend that came up in nearly all conversations is digitalization. The term digitalization, seems self-explanatory, right? Well, I thought so too. However, confusion cropped up when I was reviewing all my interview notes. Some of my interview notes said digitalization while others used the term digitization. This made me wonder, if the interviewees meant the same thing when they mentioned the terms digitalization and digitization.

Good thing is, in today’s world, one does not need to find a dictionary or rush to a library to resolve such confusions. I googled the term digitalization and opened up my most trusted resource of definitions and meanings, Merriam-Webster site. Here is the definition, I found there:

 

 

not what you expected, right? So, I checked another trusted resource, Oxford Dictionaries. Here is the definition:

 

So, I learned that digitalis is a genus of about 20 plant species, which has medicinal qualities and helpful to control heart rate. Administration of digitalis to a patient is referred as digitalization. This certainly was not the definition, I was expecting.

May be digitize is the correct term, I thought. Here is the official definition, I found:

 

While this definition is somewhat closer to my expectation, the scope of this definition also seems limited.

To me, digitization and digitalization means the implementation of advanced technologies such as big data, industrial internet of things, and analytics, to bring improvements to existing processes and business models. Various other industry participants also seem to have a similar definition and use the two terms digitization and digitalization interchangeably. Even at ARC, we have not standardized on any one term and use both in the same context.

So, which one is correct?

I believe, both are correct. Language is evolving slowly over time. However, in the last decade, we have observed some rapid changes in language due to various factors including globalization, rapidly developing technologies, and social media. For example, in this blog itself I have used a relatively new verb, “google”. Google is such a popular search engine, that the word google has now become a universally accepted verb for internet search. In-fact, it was officially entered to the Oxford dictionary in 2006.

Along with new technology, new words are also being invented. Smart phones with front facing cameras have made it so easy for users to take pictures of themselves that we now have an official word for it, selfie. We are also giving new meanings to various existing words. One such word is cloud. Earlier cloud used to mean “a visible mass of condensed watery vapour floating in the atmosphere, typically high above the general level of the ground”. Now the word has a new meaning as well, “a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet and used to store, manage, and process data in place of local servers or personal computers”. Various other words such as, friend, tag, follow, windows, platform, tablet, (and the list is endless) have also got new meaning these days.

With rapidly changing technology, the two words, digitization and digitalization, have also got a new meaning. Although popular in the industry now, these new meanings are not officially in the dictionary yet. However, with the growing trend of digitization/digitalization, both or at-least one will officially acquire the new definition soon. Till then, I guess both are correct.

What do you think? Do you prefer, digitization or digitalization?

 

 

Comments

  1. Hi Inderpreet,

    That’s an interesting question you raise. Looking up “digitalization” in Wikipedia leads to the “Digital transformation” page, which includes this section:

    Digitalization

    Unlike digitization, digitalization is the actual ‘process’ of the technologically-induced change within these industries.[14] This process has enabled much of the phenomena today known as the Internet of Things, Industrial Internet, Industry 4.0, Big data, machine to machine communication, blockchain, cryptocurrencies etc.

    The academic discussion surrounding digitalization has been described as problematic as no clear definition of the phenomena has been previously developed.[16] A common misconception is that digitalization essentially means the usage of more IT, in order to enable and take advantage of digital technology and data. This early definition however, has largely been replaced by the above definition, now linked to holistic views on business and social change, horizontal organizational and business development, as well as IT.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_transformation

    I hope this sheds additional light on the question.

    Best regards,

    Bob McIlvride, Skkynet

    • Thank you Bob for sharing your perspective. I agree with you, there is no clear definition. Digitalization/digitization may have different meaning for different organization. Moreover, the definitions may evolve further over time. Appreciate your input.

  2. Interesting post and point of discussion, one which I have had numerous times recently. Although I agree that the two terms are often used interchangeably, I do in fact think they are distinct.

    Below are two posts that further explore these terms, as well as the more holistic term of digital transformation, in the context of asset management and may be of benefit to your upcoming report.

    https://news.sap.com/digitization-vs-digitalization-wordplay-or-world-view/

    https://www.viziya.com/resource/digitalization-asset-management/

    Sincerely,
    Brad Clark – VIZIYA

  3. In the past i used digitization because digitalization sounds contrived. However, digitization is what an A/D converter does. It does not capture well the transformation of how the plant is run and maintained. I now use digital transformation instead. I abbreviate it as DX. Learn more about how other plants do DX to become digital plants from this essay: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/digital-transformation-what-actually-means-plant-jonas-berge

  4. It’s great to see between the lines of thought. Agree to your points as the vocabulary is evolving along with industry.

    My cents, if we try to break these terms like Digit-ization Vs Digit-al-ization.

    Digit-ization is the process of converting text, vedio etc in digital format, but Digit-al-ization is making use of technology into every day life through Digit-ization.

    So these terms need to be used depending on the action of want to achieve in this transformation.

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