By Tess Posner @tessposner
Managing Director, SamaUSA
What if innovation could create jobs instead of destroy them? In October 2014, SamaUSA participated in the i4j DC Summit for Job Innovation: How to Disrupt Unemployment. It was an exciting and provocative event based around the premise that technological innovation can create a whole new paradigm for meaningful work that has the potential to interrupt and even eliminate unemployment. Typically, technological innovation is viewed as the path to increased automation, relegating more and more jobs to machines and making human-powered jobs obsolete. This summit challenged that paradigm by offering a compelling claim: “all people can create value for each other,” and that innovation has the potential to unlock valuable work, tailor-fit for each person’s passions, skills, and vision for the world.
The summit, chaired by Vint Cerf, VP at Google and David Nordfords, CEO of i4j was comprised of a select interdisciplinary group of attendees from business and media, to policy and education. Participants spoke about the challenges in getting “good” jobs and full labor market participation, because of forces like automation and global competition. New possibilities were also discussed for diving deep into the untapped potential of each person, providing a new kind of job skills and resumé building that encouraged holistic professional growth: finding talents and passions, mentor matching, lifestyle planning, peer support, skills translation from one sector to another, and many more innovative solutions to the current and future job crisis. It revealed many opportunities for disrupting unemployment and increasing job availability and job quality.
Solutions like these discussed have exciting potential, but preparing for the future will require complex and multifaceted solutions from public and private sectors and partnerships. Policies and practices will need to change to support trends of a more independent workforce, rapidly changing technologies and globalization.
At SamaUSA, we see a deep urgency to focus on preparing underserved populations to participate in the online economy and prepare for the new world of work. Otherwise, the digital and economic divide will widen further, leaving out entire populations from these opportunities. The Center for Public Education says that jobs across every sector are increasingly self-managed, collaborative, and spread over the globe, relying heavily on online communication. The Pew Internet Center reported that by 2024, over 75% of all jobs will require technology skills. Yet one third of people making less than $20,000 a year are not online at all, and another third do not have broadband at home. Many depend on community resources, such as libraries, for internet access. Furthermore, these same populations lack the basic computer skills and resources to participate in online work and compete in the new globalized economy.
Providing underserved populations with technology-based skills and access to online job opportunities empowers individuals who would otherwise be left behind to participate and benefit from new innovations in the current and future economy, like those discussed at the i4j Summit. Bridging the digital and skills divide with programs like SamaUSA not only allows underserved populations to contribute to the new economy, it gives existing companies and markets the opportunity to benefit from the unique gifts and perspectives of people formally excluded from those markets. It’s a win-win for struggling populations and the economy at large.
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