Digital Revolution – transformation or disruption

by 15 Nov, 2015Future of Work0 comments

Digital disruption and its impact on the digital revolution

There is a digital revolution taking place around the world. And one term “digital disruption” is one term that is often used to describe what is happening.

There is an important distinction between digital transformation and digital disruption.

The distinction between disruption and transformation is that when someone is transformed they still exist, albeit changed in a significant way.

The term disruption can be defined as a forcible separation or division from the norm, in other words…….. radical change.

The changes that are taking place now, and which will continue to take place as a result of technology are indeed truly disruptive rather than tranformational.  Some of the old ways of doing things will not survive in the new digital economy.

Digital revolution and disruption – employment

PriceWaterhouseCoopers ( PwC) is a multi-national professional services firm, one of the largest in the world.

In April 2015 they produced a report entitled “A Smart Move”.

The report subtitle was “Future-proofing Australia’s workforce by growing skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

This report clearly illustrates the changing nature of employment as a result of the digital economy. And……the scenario painted is truly one of digital disruption, rather than transformational. Here are just a couple of key findings in the report:Crowd sourcing new ideas via social network brainstorming. Ideation for finding ideas

  • In Australia, 44% of jobs, affecting 5.1 million workers are in jobs at risk from digital disruption.
  • Machine learning, which basically means computers making intelligent decisions, will be a major source of gains in productivity.
  • Traditional supply chains will be potentially disrupted by the advent of 3D printing. Because this technology has the potential to change where and how things are manufactured up to 41% of air cargo, and 37% of ocean cargo are threatened.
  • Crowdsourcing, fuelled by social media, is changing the way organisations choose to staff key projects. Relevant talent, sourced literally from anywhere in the world via the internet,  complete their tasks on demand.

Digital revolution and disruption – jobs most at risk

In PwC’s report a list was published of jobs most at risk from the advances in technology. For each job listed there was a probability estimate of this actually occurring, and an estimate of the likely numbers of workers to be affected. Here a few that were on the list:

  • Accounting clerks/bookkeepers – 97.5% probability, and approximately 263,000 workers affected
  • Checkout operators/cashiers – 96.9% probability, 128,000 workers affected
  • General office administration workers – 96.1% probability, approximately 284,000 workers
  • Financial and insurance administration workers – 93.1% probability, 128,000 people
  • Personal assistants and secretaries – 92.4% probability, 138,000 people
  • Real estate sales agents – 85.2% probability, 71,000 workers
  • Automobile, bus and rail drivers – 80.1% probability, 95,000 workers

Digital revolution and disruption – some good news!

The report wasn’t all doom and gloom – there is some good news within the digital revolution.

The report had a list of occupations unlikely to be affected by automation technologies, along with estimates about the likelihood of these job being automated, and the number of people affected. Some of the jobs unlikely to be automated include:

  • Medical practitioner – 0.4% probability of being automated, 90,000 people affected by this
  • Education, health and welfare managers – 0.7% probability of being automated, 75,000 people affected
  • Midwives and nurses – 0.9% probability of being automated, 302,000 people affected
  • Advertising, public relations and sales professionals – 1.5% probability of being automated, 127,000 people being affected
  • Database and systems administrators, and ICT security specialists – 3.0%, 35,000 people
  • Education professionals – 3.3%, 56,000 people
  • School teachers – 4.0%, 408,000 people
  • Engineering professionals – 4.2%, 133,000
  • Social and welfare workers

Digital revolution and disruption – getting qualified for future jobs

So what advice for parents of children about what subjects or courses to study?

The PwC report indicated that 75% of the fastest growing occupations require skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

There is currently a very big shortage of students in high school, and at university who are completing studies in these areas.

Businesses of the future will need to be able to compete in a global economy. So, future workers and managers need to be appropriately educated.

The report argues that a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Technology) education is closely related to a workforce that is able to innovate – a key requirement for current and future business competitiveness.

That a STEM education is an advantage is backed up by the fact that 70% of Australian employers identify STEM employees as being among the most innovative.

Digital revolution and disruption – summary

That big changes are coming to the way we live, work, educate ourselves and use our leisure time is a certainty.

A first step to prepare for the ‘disruption’ that the digital revolution is going cause in our lives is to attempt to identify the types of changes that are in store.

In this post, I have provided a summary of a recent report from PriceWaterhouseCoopers which outline some predictions about the labour market here in Australia.

Clearly, over the next 10-20 years many familiar jobs will simply disappear, to be replaced by technology which automates the work involved.

The good news is, some jobs will continue to be in demand, as will the demand from employers to hire people who have the skills and education needed to do them.

Knowing these things, it is possible to make some plans about how we take advantage of the opportunities this new future will bring.

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