programmable economy

The programmable economy is a term created by research firm Gartner Inc. in 2014 to describe the revolutionary changes happening in the global economy due to technology innovations. The Stamford, Conn., headquartered firm defines the programmable economy as "a natively 'smart' economic system that supports and/or manages the production and consumption of goods and services, enabling diverse scenarios of exchange of value (monetary and nonmonetary)." Gartner vice president David Furlonger and Gartner research vice president Ray Valdes are at the forefront of prompting this vision of the globe's economic future, predicting that the programmable economy will be as transformative for society as the Internet has been.

Gartner states that "these technologically enabled capabilities will radically reshape our notion of what an economy is, how its activities are measured, how it operates and how it is controlled." The programmable economy will be powered by various technologies, including APIs, apps, metacoin platforms, digital currencies, distributed ledger/blockchain technology, smart contracts, cryptography, artificial intelligence (AI), programmable scripts and the internet of things. It will feature various forms of value exchange in place of the system now in place, a centuries-old system in which governments have central control over the value of the money used to transact exchanges in the marketplace. Gartner asserts that this system of exchange was not designed to move at the speed of digital activities and cannot keep up in the digital age.

Instead of using government-backed currencies as the nearly universal mode of payment, the programmable economy will feature multiple new forms of value exchange. Moreover, in the programmable economy, it will be individuals and smart machines that will define value and determine how that value is exchanged. Gartner anticipates that these value exchanges will happen in peer-to-peer transactions as well as transactions involving organizations and even smart agents and smart machines.

According to Gartner research, the programmable economy will emerge over the next decade; Gartner says adoption of the programmable economy is "highly probable" by 2035. As the far-reaching implications, and impact, of the programmable economy unfold in the upcoming years, organizations will need to evaluate and adjust their technology portfolios, staffing needs, organizational structures, product and/or service offerings as well the way they conduct business and interact with vendors, partners and customers.

This was last updated in November 2016

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