Project Management
Project Management

The Nexus of Digitization and Democratization

2 Dec 2020
Sunil Prashara
In an exponentially changing, “digital first” world, organizations need a tech-proficient workforce to navigate unexpected shocks. As democratization and digitization collide, citizen development lights the way to true business agility.

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

Anyone who loves the game of chess may have heard the famous legend of a conversation between the inventor of chess and the Persian king.

The inventor asked as a reward that, he be granted one grain of rice to be placed on the first square of the board, with the amount of grains on each subsequent square doubling each time. The king agreed that the request sounded reasonable.

What the king didn’t fully think through was the math of the inventor’s proposition. There are 64 squares on a chessboard, and if the number of grains doubles on successive squares, then the sum of grains on all squares is 1 + 2 + 4 + 8… and so on.

At the end of this progression, the total number of grains equals 18,446,744,073,709,551,615, which would weigh 461,168,602,000 metric tons—a heap of rice larger than Mount Everest, or around 1,000 times the global production of rice in 2010.

That is the power of exponential growth.

For some perspective, consider these stats from entrepreneur Peter Diamandis, who hosts a podcast and develops a steady stream of thought leadership on exponential growth in technology:

  • Processing power continues to double every two years. We are now at 100,000,000,000 transistors per microchip.
  • Processing efficiency has increased by a factor of 100,000 since 1990.
  • Quantum computing qubits will increase by a factor of 17.
  • The total amount of data globally will grow 3X by 2025.
  • We have seen a 12X increase in internet traffic since 2010.
  • Since 2010, the number of internet users worldwide has doubled while global internet traffic has grown twelvefold. Today, nearly 60% of the world’s population has access to the internet.
  • We saw massive growth of solar during the last decade, increasing by a factor of twenty from 2010 to 2019.
  • By 2023, global e-commerce sales are projected to be almost $7 trillion.
  • Industrial robotics global shipments are up nearly 5X since 2020.
  • 3D printing has doubled in market size from 2015-2018.

As Diamandis describes it, there are 6 essential ‘Ds’ when it comes to exponential growth:

  • Digitization
  • Deception
  • Disruption
  • Demonetization
  • Dematerialization
  • Democratization

For large companies, the 6 Ds can represent the six horsemen of the apocalypse—certain doom if they aren’t prepared to keep up with this rapid pace of change.


These trendlines help explain why I’m so bullish on the emergence of citizen development, which represents the nexus of digitization and democratization. I humbly suggest this could represent the one exponential shift that Diamandis has missed; by 2023, the number of active citizen developers at large enterprises will be at least 4X the number of professional developers.

We have long been living in a digital world, but COVID has accelerated that shift. It’s no longer optional; if you aren’t already operating as though you’re in a “digital first” environment you are not at the races at all. We’re living in an exponentially changing world and it’s time to think today about how to get ahead of tomorrow’s unexpected shocks.

Sunil Prashara Sunil Prashara

As President & Chief Executive Officer of the Project Management Institute (PMI), Sunil Prashara is the lead advocate for PMI’s global organization, serving more than three million professionals working in nearly every country of the world. His primary responsibility is to implement PMI’s global strategic plan with a priority on strategic focus, customer centricity and organizational agility. This includes expanding the PMI footprint globally, as well as digitizing PMI’s offerings and platforms to benefit its members and a variety of other stakeholders.