home industry 4.0 Tech@Work: Learner’s Blogs – Part 3: New Digital Order

Tech@Work: Learner’s Blogs – Part 3: New Digital Order

To share knowledge and build community, we would like to share with you some of the participants in the Technology@Work MOOC’s blog posts below.

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I started using the internet in the mid-90s. Still remember sending out my first email. Then I chatted online, played some games, swapped music and photos with friends; it was so easy to do it, the digital way. Soon after I was browsing the web, pushing projects and exams to my professors, hanging out in forums. Everything was a click away, always there, always accessible.

Then I started to shop online, despite the horror of my mom. What if hackers clone my credit card? Relax mom; they will not, hopefully. The choice, the speed of search, the price so low, much more convenient than any store nearby. I would be crazy to shop at brick and mortar shop ever again I thought. All the stuff digital, it was the best thing since sliced bread. Though I was a happy consumer I wanted to see if the internet could be used for actual work, to make money in the digital world. It was not easy to start, very often I would be told there are better offerings elsewhere and that I should try harder. I was asked to do more, to improve quality, for less money and to deliver in no time. It is only then I realized the complexity and challenged digital economy puts in front of a content maker, i.e. producer of digital goods.

Time passed by. I am living in the digital economy now. I have my own blog. I find work online. I communicate with my colleagues. Share tasks and assignment, attend courses and webinars. Competition is immense. Margins for error are slim. Time is money, literally. The complexity of market events is beyond comprehension. If you do not know what I mean, see any episode of HBO’s Silicon Valley. It’s a digital economy fiction comedy with a pinch of truth to it. While I believed that in the digital economy, unlike the classic one, everyone has a chance in reality very rarely, small guys could complete with the behemoths, native or sandboxed monopolists. Take online retailers for instance. Business model: low margins, low labour cost, no inspection, no profit taxes. There is no chance that a small shop next door could compete. The result? Take a look in a city centre where you reside, and focus on to let or rent banners. Banks are next. Then the car dealers. The list goes on and on. Digitalize or exit. Nobody likes the change, but digital economy epitomizes the term. Nothing will be left the same. If it can be disrupted, it will. I was frustrated with it at that point. But as long forgotten TV friends taught us once, resistance is futile.

I do not have strong feelings for the digital economy anymore. I learned to accept it and try to use it to my benefit. I am not happy that the big digital companies are making money off users by offering them free services as I write this. No problem, have you ever heard of ad blockers? It is not fair that trillions in income translate to measly millions in profits tax dues because well, the internet has no nation and thus the tax jurisdiction cannot be established. One day, if the WTO gets its act together, that will be the relict of past. I am not happy with being monitored online 24-7 but if that is the price of public safety who am I do disagree. The freedom of choice, net neutrality, intellectual property protection and privacy are still the grey areas of the digital economy across the world. But that will change, sooner or later. Where are the limits of digital economy? I do not know, but my best-educated guess would go alongside available reserves of lithium and a steady supply of silicone. And a bit of regulation. Transparent and fair one, please. Will digital economy bring more or fewer people at the end? I would say yes, to those that will want to work. Or could not afford a soul-less personal assistant. The others will be paid to live and consume because digital economy is here to stay.

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Kai Hsin Hung

Kai-Hsin Hung is an External Collaborator with the ITC-ILO. He develops and designs curriculum and prototypes new sustainable learning solutions. His focus is innovation and knowledge synthesis of complex development challenges, including the future of work, food security, and climate change. He has broad experience in various roles in international advocacy, program management, and policy research at the International Development Research Centre and Global Affairs Canada. Follow him at @KaiHsinHung

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