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In today’s economy, technology know-how is crucial for successful entrepreneurs. More than three-quarters of small to medium-sized businesses say that technologies such as the cloud and mobile devices are central to their success, according to a study by Dell and Intel. For entrepreneurs, this means that tech education can make the difference between success and failure. Here’s a look at why technology has become so important in business and why tech education will continue to grow.

The Rise of Technology in Business

Technology’s influence on the business world has come in waves. The first wave came with the rise of the office PC, which turned the computer into the centerpiece of the office. Office computers actually predate the PC, but it wasn’t until the 1970s when word processing technology emerged that computers began to replace typewriters in the office. In 1977, Apple introduced the Apple II, and four years later, IBM rolled out the PC, setting the stage for computers to invade offices in the 1980s. Meanwhile, early spreadsheet programs such as VisiCalc transformed bookkeeping, and Microsoft purchased a program called Presenter which became PowerPoint. Since then, office suites have become central to business operations.

In the 1990s, a second wave of technology engulfed the business world when internet marketing came into maturity. The first email spam advertising began as early as 1978, when computer manufacturer Digital Equipment Corporation advertised to users of ARPANET, the ancestor of the internet. Spam initially focused on Usenet forums before migrating to email. But it wasn’t until the rise of popular internet use in the 1990s that online marketing reached maturity in the form of banner ads, which companies such as AT&T began using in 1994. The banner ad era helped propel the rise of search engine companies such as Yahoo, setting the stage for Google ads in the 2000s and the rise of Dot Com giants such as Amazon. Social media advertising soon followed.

But internet marketing was eventually upstaged by a third wave of technology, as mobile phones revolutionized communication and transformed the internet into the cloud. The earliest mobile marketing began in the form of SMS text messages as early as 2003, and by 2005 major brands such as Nike were using SMS advertising. But it wasn’t until Apple released the iPhone in 2007 that mobile marketing began to come into its own. Over the next decade, Apple grew to become one of the world’s most valuable brands, and by 2016, mobile internet use had surpassed desktop internet use, making mobile marketing the key to successful sales.

How Tech Education Helps Entrepreneurs

Against the backdrop of this technological revolution, tech education has helped empower entrepreneurs in multiple ways. First, technology has provided office and business tools such as Office 365 and QuickBooks that enable tech-savvy entrepreneurs to automate daily tasks and increase their efficiency.

Meanwhile, internet marketing technology and analytics tools have enabled companies to vastly expand their customer base and advertising efficiency. Websites, digital commerce and digital advertising are now the top priorities for marketing budgets, Gartner data shows.

Technology has also become a means of delivering business education to entrepreneurs. Many colleges and universities now offer online classes through online educational services such as Coursera. Companies such as Amway also offer online business courses to support entrepreneurs.

Why Tech Education Will Increase in Importance

Tech education will continue to stay at the forefront of entrepreneurship due to several trends that are currently transforming the business world. Artificial intelligence has reached maturity and is empowering companies with a growing range of tools. For instance, business intelligence tools such as IBM Watson Analytics now empower smaller companies to enjoy the same big data insights as their larger counterparts.

Meanwhile, chatbot tools from providers such as Converse and Zendesk are allowing small businesses to automate their customer service. Companies such as Snapchat and Facebook have introduced augmented reality tools that will soon find advertising applications. Companies with the tech education to tap into these types of tools will gain a significant edge over their competitors.