After my last blogpost, I started reading up more on technology and global inequality. How much of a divide is there in the world? Is it such a serious social issue?
It turns out that the answers are ‘A very big one’ and ‘yes.’
Many of the issues stem from lack of internet access for a large proportion of the world’s population, which denies them access to education and training needed to socially advance or improve their communities. This is an issue that is being worked on through many angles (including the wifi drones that I wrote about last year) although there are plenty of other problems than just the hardware – including fair access under corrupt administration, and cultural issues or actually using it.
But in high and middle-income countries, lack of access is less of a problem, but technology is actually making equality worse over time. This article from the World Economic Forum explains it best, basically as jobs have become more automated, the world starts to become divided into those who still have marketable skills and those who don’t. Those who do can afford more personal technology, more education to develop those skills (and their children’s skills) and so the divide grows. Even with programmes to bridge that divide and ensure that everyone has access to useful job skills, countries are reaching a point where productivity can be high but there simply aren’t enough jobs for everyone to have one. I remember being amazed at this video of robots moving stock around an Amazon warehouse (exciting futuristic stuff!) and then quickly realising that this is a job that used to be done by people… and it isn’t just factory jobs either. Recently a Japanese Insurance firm began using a computer system that calculates customer payouts for them, making 34 employees redundant.
The scary thing is that the WEF article above (which it should be noted was written a year ago) both calls for a quick response to the issue but is unable to provide clear answers, only ‘innovative thinking’ to solve the problem. Clearly, we didn’t start solving it in 2016, and I have to wonder how many more robots will enter the workforce before we do.