The fourth industrial revolution: opportunity or loss? A social purpose perspective
If the Paris Climate confronted us with the pressing question of ‘what next for the world?, the Davos World Economic Forum has brought front and centre the much-needed question of ‘what next for humanity?’.
As the world becomes more and more ruled by technological efficiency (the so-called ‘fourth industrial revolution’), concerns grow that this will continue to help a small minority to profit whilst the wider majority struggle to make ends meet. Those already heavily disadvantaged, such as women and migrants, are likely to be impacted first – often seen as having a more limited skill-set, there is a real threat that they are easily replaced and made redundant by technological efficiencies. As an UBS report released over Davos explains, we’ll likely see a “polarisation of the labour force as low-skill jobs continue to be automated and this trend increasingly spreads to middle class jobs”.
From a consumer perspective, this technological shift is already resulting in a growing tension: from Uber to Amazon, consumers are having to face (and stomach) the impact of this technological shift, which is triumphing efficiency often at the price of people. But as we are repeatedly seeing across our work, consumers are increasingly uncomfortable with this forced choice between people and price - and so are beginning to actively look for more compelling offerings that speak to both.
There is, therefore, a growing opportunity for corporates, NFPs & NGOs to work separately or together to find an innovative way of simplifying this – to challenge the status quo and prove that people and technology aren’t mutual adversaries. In fact, recent research by Deloitte shows just this: technology can indeed be friend rather than foe to the human work-force. The jobs technology overhauls are often those that are more arduous or dangerous: “The dominant trend is of contracting employment in agriculture and manufacturing being more than offset by rapid growth in the caring, creative, technology and business services sectors”.
The problem is that few are prepared or trained for this process of transition – their limited skill-set often makes them quickly redundant rather than transferrable to other industries. Some are already recognising this opportunity – for example in 2011 Samsung founded their ‘Electronics Engineering Academy’ to ensure the next generation of workers are being trained up in order to take advantage of the growth of tech rather than be disadvantaged by it. Likewise, heralded as one of the most promising uses of technology in the developing world, is "impact sourcing” whereby disadvantaged communities are trained in internet-based projects that allow them to work remotely & flexibly. In 2010 the market for impact sourcing was $4.5 billion in 2010, and employed 144,000 people in developing countries. This has now grown to 560,850.
As we are helping more and more brands, NFPs and NGOs to collaborate on such opportunities, we’re beginning to see an exciting and innovative pooling of resources to aid this technological transition. This raises an exciting possibility: could great brands, NFPs and NGOs work together to help the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ change tack and prove that technology and people can work together for a more profitable future for everyone? In this light, we stop believing it’s necessary to make a false choice between what’s good for people vs what’s good for the world.
Image source: Google
- Article by Katrina Skwarek