THE WORLD AND TECHNOLOGY

How many of us can say, with certainty, what jobs we would choose if we were kids today? The pace of technological change in the time I’ve been in work is only a shadow of what we will see over the next 15 to 20 years. This next wave of change will fundamentally reshape all of our careers, my own included.

Over the years, technology has proven to play an essential, if not the most essential role in the world’s economy and development. Hence, it is no wonder that as the years go by, technology has advanced from good to better, and still advancing.

It is estimated that some 65% of children entering primary schools today will likely work in roles that don’t currently exist.

We expect the pace of change in the job market to start to accelerate by 2020. Office and administrative functions, along with manufacturing and production roles, will see dramatic declines accounting for over six million roles over the next four years. Conversely, business, and financial operations along with computer and mathematical functions will see steep rises. There is a central driver for many of these transformations, and it is technology.

Artificial intelligence, 3D printing, resource-efficient sustainable production, and robotics will factor into the ways we currently make, manage and mend products and deliver services. The latter two have the potential to create jobs in the architectural and engineering sectors, following the high demand for advanced automated production systems.

When the World Economic Forum surveyed global HR decision-makers, some 44% pointed to new technologies enabling remote working, co-working space, and teleconferencing as the principal driver of change. Concurrently, advances in mobile and cloud technology allowing remote and instant access were singled out as the most important technological driver of change, enabling the rapid spread of internet-based service models.

It’s worth reflecting on how we could imagine a changing world like this. In Japan, a man has been found who can relocate an entire building by means of a technology technique he created himself. That’s how far technology has gone, making life easier by the day.

Our future place of work might not be an open-plan office, but interconnected workspaces not tied to one place, but many. They will be underpinned by virtual conferencing, complete and constant connection, and portability.

Our working day will be fundamentally different. Leveraging big data, like real-time traffic information, could cut journey times, making the school run easier, and the morning commute more manageable. That is if you have to commute: home-working will no longer be defined as a Friday luxury, but a more efficient way to work enabled by technology, taking the physical strain from megacities and regionalizing work locations.

The technology underpinning what futurologists have christened ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution will enable disruptive business models to decentralize our economies as we move from value systems based on ownership to ones enabling access. Personally owned assets, from cars, to spare bedrooms, will expand entrepreneurship, diversifying revenue streams. It’s no fluke that within three years of trading, the home-sharing platform Airbnb offers more rooms than some of the biggest hotel chains.

Critically, these very technologies might help us unlock the solutions to some of the biggest societal challenges we currently grapple with. The ICT underpinning these technologies, in consort with the transformational power of big data, could support smart systems that will help tackle climate challenges. Connected homes, factories, and farms leveraging smart energy management systems could mean dramatically lower energy use, which would contribute to the decarbonization of our economies.

And yet we must be vigilant. Not of technological change; we have the power and innovation to harness and use its power as we see fit. But of access to the connectivity and opportunity, it brings.

What will be absolutely decisive is how we equip our children, our students, and our colleagues to harness the power of this technology to transform our world for the better. That means ensuring the ICT skills of current school leavers are fit for the future. It means providing incentives for lifelong learning as the pace of technological advancement quickens. And it means reinventing the HR function, equipping it to continually assess and provide for the training needs of employees.

If we get this right the prize is clear. We have the potential to revolutionize the way we live and work and do it in a way that avoids the vicissitudes of previous industrial revolutions, creating new economic opportunities that, even as children, we would not have before imagined.

In conclusion, we must use every tool within our armory to ensure the current and future generations are not left behind in the global digital skills race.

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