Is digital transformation human enough?

19 Oct 2022

Image: © Redshinestudio/

As part of Digital Transformation Week, Silicon Republic’s For Tech’s Sake podcast delves into the human side of our digital future.

Click to view the entire Digital Transformation Week series at

Digital transformation is everywhere right now. It is undoubtedly at the top of most companies’ agendas. After all, the famous phrase is: ‘Adapt or die.’

Perhaps one of the clearest examples of how tech has transformed the way we live and work is through our methods of communication.

Letters became email and now we send texts and instant messages. Chatting in person evolved into phone calls and now we’re meeting on Zoom or Microsoft Teams regularly.

This transformation goes beyond communication too. Brick-and-mortar shops have gone online, many customer service queries now begin with a chatbot, and buildings have become smart enough to control everything from security to energy usage.

But as the world becomes more digital, will it still be human enough for the people who live here?

That’s exactly what Elaine Burke and Jenny Darmody wanted to find out when they spoke to Joan Mulvihill, the digitalisation and sustainability lead at Siemens.

Mulvihill chatted to Burke and Darmody as part of episode two of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The Headstuff Podcast Network.

While a self-professed advocate for digital transformation, Mulvihill warned that transforming without having humans at the centre of the conversation is not progress.

“We talk about a frictionless society where we don’t have to interact with, what? Other people? How is that a good thing?”

While spending some time in Paris, Mulvihill found herself near the Jardin James-Joyce. This made her think of Ulysses, the journey of one man through a city in one day and the richness of that experience.

“I would hate to think that we would connect cities so much that we would miss those beautiful interactions that make our lives richer in a way that technology can’t necessarily do,” she said.

We’re reaching a “tipping point” when it comes to digital transformation and the effects it can have on people’s lives and jobs. “Just because we can, should we? What is the collateral damage to other people?”

Mulvihill also said that while many believe that “what gets measured gets managed”, she believes that what gets measured actually gets missed because when everything is reduced to data points, important context can be left out.

“Imagine if you’d gotten to the end of Ulysses and someone had asked Leopold Bloom: ‘And how many steps was that?’”

Listen in to episode two of For Tech’s Sake to learn more.

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.