7 minutes reading time (1449 words)

ED Toolbox maps the impact of 20+ disruptive technologies on 400 business categories across 19 industry sectors.

It’s taken a while, but the ED Toolbox is now launched.

It is a simple platform for students and their parents, providing insights into the impact disruptive technologies are having on the future of work and jobs. 

Ed Toolbox maps over 20 disruptive technologies against 400 business categories across 19 industry sectors. Which includes just about every organisation that employs people. 

These disruptive technologies are a challenge to the same business categories in every country in the world, so the ED Toolbox could be useful to parents and students elsewhere as well.

Over the years, I have consistently posted on Linkedin my concerns about the changing nature of work and jobs, based on results from our 50,000 surveys of ICT adoption and use. 

Disruptive technologies are a real challenge, not just to businesses today, but to businesses and other organisations for many years into the future.

It’s not all bad news. But it’s not all good news either. And some sectors do much better than other sectors.

Which is why students and their parents need to understand where the threats and opportunities are. It’s their future.

My posts generated lots of in-mails, emails and comments. In fact, when I post, this particular subject gets more likes and comments than any other.

“We get it. But can you please do something to help students and especially their parents better understand how disruptive technology is changing the world? Because most don’t have a clue.”

Which on the whole is true. Students are native adopters and users of technology, but don’t have the experience, history and wider context to understand where devices and software fit into the world around them. 

And most parents still believe that things are the way they used to be when they first got a job.

But things are very different today. And based on our research, the picture doesn’t look positive for our kids and grandkids, when you consider what they are being taught at school.

The curriculum doesn’t match or prepare students for the new work (or lack of work) environment.

What the results of our 50,000 surveys demonstrated was pretty much the same as what Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne from Oxford Martin School found in 2013, when they published their report stating 47% of jobs were under threat. 

We just arrived at the same conclusion from a different direction. Frey and Osborne looked at job roles under threat. We looked at business processes and activities impacted by new technology.

Which allowed us to map individual disruptive technologies to individual business categories and map the degree of challenge, opportunity or threat. 

Not just from robotics and AI, but Artificial Intelligence (AI), 3D printing, Augmented Reality, Internet of Things, Blockchain, Cloud services, BIM, GPS, 5G, Cryptocurrency, Cybersecurity, Drones, Digital Identity, IP protection, Robots, Virtual Reality, Amazon, airbnb, Freelancer, Google, Uber etc, not forgetting climate change and “fake news”.

And 47% of jobs under threat seems about right, though that percentage should probably be a bit higher.

For half of industry sectors including mining, agriculture, arts and recreation etc, technology offers many new opportunities.

For the other half the prognosis is not so healthy or optimistic.

But whether the prognosis for business is good or bad, there is an underlying problem across all industries – overall there is net job loss.

Technology tends to replace not displace, which we have not seen before in our history. 

With previous revolutions it was mainly job displacement and new opportunity. This time it is job replacement and “musical chairs” – with not enough new world jobs (chairs) to replace the old world jobs we are losing.

And on top of that, the new world jobs are a mix of high tech-high skill-high reward jobs (which don’t suit everybody) and low tech–low skill-low reward jobs which lead nowhere.

Other than to a destination nobody wants to visit.

But we do have time to do something about this, once we properly wake up to the challenge. Because the rate of disruption and change can be influenced, both by corporate and government. 

It can be slowed down to give us time to act intelligently - but it can’t be stopped.

The challenges don’t all come at once. The impact of new technologies will be felt over the next 15 to 20 years, which gives us time to prepare. But we have to prepare now. If you can see the tsunami coming towards you, it is too late to move.

Some industries are being challenged first (now), with others having a lot more time to “avoid the tsunami and run for the hills”.

The problem is that the impacts of digital disruption are not usually as dramatic as a physical tsunami. The impacts are largely invisible and unreported and often even ignored. 

Just the occasional story of, “80,000 people being sacked from this bank, or 20,000 from that media company or 1,000 from this lead smelter” and so on.

We read the news reports but don’t join the dots.

And an administration person leaving a small business goes unreported completely. Yet we live in a country where half the working population is in small business. Software comes in – a person goes out. 

And it all adds up.

Even the slow ongoing integration of systems in larger organisations is pushing people out the door. Software in its many guises is increasing efficiency and eliminating jobs. It’s not just about robotics and AI.

By now, we have all heard the joke, “the factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.”

Hopefully, it won’t be quite that bad, but you get the idea.

And as long as we stay in control of the process, and channel resources into the right places – regions, productive industries, export, scaleups and startups - we could even manage this transition productively, if we make our decisions with a view to the greater good, the longer term, and the broader society we all live in and not just the next quarter’s bottom line.

But we can’t continue to ignore the enormity of the disruption.

Leave it to market forces and we are stuffed.

This process has to be managed wisely. There is already inequity in the society we live in. The continual impact of digital disruption will just compound this.

IMF modelling suggests that there will be increasing wage disparity between the “new skilled” and the “low skilled” increasing inequality even further.

Not just creating more “have everythings” = 1%, but a lot more “have not muchs,” and a new class of “have absolutely nothings”. 

Disappointingly, we have become used to the first two groupings, but not yet accepting of the increasing disparity between the two.

But the new group of “have absolutely nothings” is growing. People in this group without opportunity become depressed, sick and suicidal and put even more stress on our hospital system. And some will become angry, increasingly isolated, and even violent and put stress on the police, courts and prison system.

Which we don’t want. And we can’t afford.

And it’s why we have to manage this transition with 20-20 vision. Not just let it happen without any control.

There is a lot we can do to manage the future.

And we need to do everything we can. But we can start by helping students and parents – who are challenged by these changes – better understand the disruptive technologies, and the industries under threat. This is about their future.

Then students and parents can make better study and work choices, and even begin to help sort out the world of work, by creating jobs themselves.

This transition can be managed productively. We have the resources, the productive industries and there is no lack of good will. If we can just harness these collaboratively then the future looks good.

Entrepreneurialism needs to become universal. We are an amazingly well resourced country. We just have to use and husband all our resources like farmers, with intelligence, and a clear vision for a productive industry led future.

Understanding starts with awareness. 

So in response to the Linkedin comments - “We get it. But can you please do something to help students and parents better understand how disruptive technology is changing the world? Because most don’t have a clue.” – we built the ED Toolbox.


It’s a start. There is more to come. And the Ed Toolbox will be regularly updated.

The Ed Toolbox for students and parents is launched. We now start work on a version for High Schools.

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Tuesday, 25 February 2020

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