Our first transnational meeting of phase two of TechTown took place in Basingstoke and tackled some quite fundamental questions around who is the digital community, what is the digital sector and what are these digital jobs that everyone is talking about?
This is a vital topic for Europe’s cities and many opinions were sought for the podcast produced by our Lead Expert, Alison Partridge, to establish just how broad the definition is. Generally, digital jobs are seen as those which do not require you to be physically present. Work one can do from anywhere, for anyone, at any time.
For some, the phrase ‘digital jobs’ can be a contradiction, as the word ‘digital’ has its own connotations, being associated with computing and machines.
In recent history, the introduction of technology-based machines to a workplace resulted in a loss of jobs, especially in the manufacturing sector; this is clearly still very fresh in the minds of many people, who consequently may see ‘digital jobs’ as a threat
This fear, although historically evident in some cases, does not match the reality experienced by those working in the TechTown project, nor elsewhere. When considering the potential for growth, there are a number of statistics that are, at first, surprising…
A baseline study carried out by TechTown produced some interesting statistics that may serve to ease the fears of those who are sceptical about the evolution of digital. It’s worth noting that digital makes up 8% of the GDP of the G20 major economies and in 2014 was worth 3.2 trillion euros! In Europe alone, studies suggest that the digital economy could grow by at least 1.5 million new jobs. Impressive statistics by any standard.
Clearly, this contradicts the view that digital, through automation and the introduction of technology, destroy jobs, with evidence showing that actually, tech creates more jobs than it destroys. This is also apparent in the US, where research suggests that for every one job lost to technology, 2.6 new jobs are created.
But, it goes even further, with spin-off benefits too and the impact of the digital revolution being felt in related sectors. One new job created in a high-tech industry will lead to five new jobs in other sectors.
Maybe the most unexpected forecast was that 75% of the new value created by the internet is found in traditional industries. The term ‘digital jobs’ covers every sector, not just the high-tech start-ups that are springing up in Europe’s major cities.
In order to provide a more complete picture, we must also think about people using digital tools to do ‘traditional’ jobs and grow existing businesses, but who wouldn’t consider themselves to be ‘digital’.
It’s fair to say that we can’t underestimate the potential for digital to transform, for better or worse. Its impact goes way beyond innovation within existing sectors, to effecting radical changes to the business landscape
Thanks to digital, the world of work are being reshaped and it will do this with or without us. It’s not only in the private sector either; digital is also changing how cities are managed and the delivery of public services, to benefit the economy, our citizens and the environment.