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IGF 2014 -DAY 1: Apocalypse in employment?

IMG-20140903-WA002Yesterday morning we attended the very interesting workshop on Internet & jobs: Creative destruction or destructive creation? This debate is probably one of the “most relevant” ones as it has human face.

 

All attendees shared a vision: ICT and the digital economy are spreading great economic opportunities all over the world, particularly in developing economies, but at the same time , their net impact in jobs has been negative so far.

 

Richard C. Beaird eased a great debate on the present and future opportunities created by the digital ecosystem in term of job creation. Michael Kende, underlined that the open Internet is an enabler for job creation and entrepreneurship. Places as Silicon Valley are good examples of this. MOOCs, crowd funding, online mentoring, or cloud computing are without a doubt new opportunities born in the light of the digitalization of the economy and society. Therefore, preserving an open Internet should be a common goal as it enables a virtuous economic circle. From an African perspective, Lillian Nalwoga, recalled that Internet is creating opportunities and GDPs increases although there are still problems of taxes delocalization to be solved. Eli Noam depicted a rather apocalyptic scenario where the Internet is the main responsible for job destruction. In his view, ICTs create instability and increase inequalities by concentrating wealth created by the Internet in few hands. And Lorenzo Pupillo underlined the disruptive effect of any new technology in employment, not being necessarily negative. There are threats, as monopolistic behaviors or taxation unbalances that should be tackled. In any case, stated, competition should be allowed by ensuring a level playing field for all actors in the digital value chain. Diego Molano Vega shared the view that ICT industry is destructing lots of jobs everywhere. He also proposed some policies to be developed: the first step to be taken is to develop talent at local level and more concretely, to attract young people to technical careers, especially to engineering studies – something that is not “cool” nowadays. “ICT skills extended all over the population are crucial as what we need is innovative doctors, civil servants, artists, etc. to compete and succeed in the digital world”, he said.

 

Andrew Wyckoff showed the positive face of the history. He underlined the fact that ICTs are creating a cocktail of good sales and good profits with fewer jobs but at the same time it is creating a platform for entrepreneurship. We can grasp this opportunity but only when ICT skilled people increase, we enhance and guaranty the free flow of information as it allows the exchange of ideas and innovation, and we leave more room for the leisure industry to develop and add new jobs.

 

All in all, ICTs are transforming the world of work, creating new job opportunities while destroying others but it is a fact that they are making labor markets more innovative and global. We are convinced that we can win the battle of ICT-related jobs worldwide but, for this to happen, public and private sector should work together and get right in the design and implementation of policies. There are three key drivers for the increase in jobs worldwide: Greater connectivity, digitization of more aspects of work and more globalized skills.

 

However, to maximize the positive impact of ICTs on employment we should correctly shake the cocktail country by country of human capital systems (ICT skills), infrastructure systems (ubiquitous connectivity, access to electricity and transport; innovation), social systems (social safety nets), financial systems (access to finance to support innovation and entrepreneurship) and regulatory systems (labor market flexibility, level-playing field across the value chain, environment favoring employment opportunities while protecting the rights of workers).

 

The debate is fascinating and we continue working to manage the unbalances created in terms of employment. We are convinced that in the near future the Digital Economy will be an inseparable coupling. For that reason it is more urgent than ever to explore and enhance the appropriate ecosystem to grasp the job opportunities that are to come.

 

 

 

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Chema Alonso

Chief Data Officer, Telefonica.