Across the world, there is a strong belief that machines are quickly approaching and they will take over human jobs.
This fear is not new. From the cotton gin, to the tractor, to the assembly line and beyond, jobs have faced and will continue to face threats from technological advances.
But throughout these disruptions, large-scale unemployment has typically been avoided: either machines could not do many of the innately human things people could do, or technology so drastically brought down costs that new markets were unlocked, in turn requiring more workers to serve new customers.
Technology is rapidly reducing the cost of serving consumers across industries as diverse as financial services, transportation, and hospitality – and is allowing products and services that were traditionally only accessed by the privileged few to reach a wide pool of new customers.
Greater internet and mobile penetration, the development of online market places, and changes in user and consumer behaviour are creating technology-enabled business models across the globe. It is precisely at this juncture that technology can be used to create job opportunities for burgeoning youth population.
As traditional jobs become scarcer in increasingly competitive job markets, the digital economy can support the livelihoods of entrepreneurial individuals seeking to provide services to new customers in new ways.
For workers and policymakers alike, there are good reasons to worry about the impact of technology on jobs. Yet if history is any guide, harnessing the power of new technology to reach new consumers will present tremendous opportunities for digital work and entrepreneurship. But to realize these opportunities our conception of work must change, if the work itself is to follow suit.