December 03, 2020

Why we don’t need to be depressed about the future of work

By Byron Clatterbuck, CEO, SEACOM

The future of work will look different; the World Economic Forum predicts that robots will displace 85 million jobs by 2025; but the good news is that they will also create 97 million new roles.

An increasingly digital world is shaping the future of our country, whether we’re ready or not. So how do we alleviate fears that “robots and machines will take our jobs”?

The future is already here

We’ve been so worried about the impending Fourth Industrial Revolution and what it means that we haven’t even noticed that robots and technology are already playing a part in our lives.

For years we have been giving our dirty work to machines. Consider your vacuum cleaner. Before you started using it, you had a broom. Vacuum cleaners then became available and made cleaning easier. Take it a step further and you can even use a robot vacuum cleaner to clean your home. We’re already living the robotic future that we so fear, we just haven't considered it this way.

What does this mean for the future of work?

New jobs will continue to be created to facilitate the digital migration. This allows us to provide goods and services more efficiently and more safely.

Enhanced security systems have made commercial spaces safer by using access tags, cards, cloud services, and biometrics, forcing security at entrances to become redundant. While this role may disappear, it also creates the opportunity for someone to design, implement, and maintain these security systems. We need to look at the bigger picture.

The world has embraced a hybrid model, where humans, robots, and AI work together. This ensures a more streamlined and efficient workflow where humans take on the more empathetic and strategic side of things. Technology will drive processes, getting things done quicker and with fewer errors. But people will still crave human interaction and emotion, which is something technology will never be able to replace.

Barriers to the digital economy

Recently we have seen that the way we work can change quite easily. This rapid change has created a sense of uncertainty amongst South Africans, particularly the youth, which shouldn’t be the case. The evolution brought on by AI, the digital economy, and technology can work to their advantage and provide opportunities.

South Africa can’t take on the digital world if we don’t have the skills and infrastructure to do so. If we don’t have proper roads, laying Internet fibre becomes difficult, and without Internet access, we cannot participate in the digital economy. This creates an inequality gap; urban areas will be able to join the digital migration easily, while rural communities risk being left behind. Education is essential in upskilling the population and bridging this gap to prevent it from worsening. Luckily, with purposeful investment and a focus on inclusion, the digital economy may be the answer to decreasing inequality in Africa.

Public-private partnerships facilitating the growth of South Africa’s digital ecosystem

Government has the ideal platform to promote digital education and facilitate skills development, but needs the infrastructure and capacity to enable this. This is where businesses can assist in building and developing the infrastructure and skills needed to drive digital development.

By joining forces, business and government can bridge the gap and ensure a brighter future for South Africa's youth in a digitally driven world. Find out more about how SEACOM is committed to driving infrastructure solutions for our country that will help ensure a stable digital future for all.