Is Technology Deepening The Digital Divide?

Digitally driven technology businesses are growing in all sectors of the economy as they create jobs and new industries. But do they provide for everyone or simply deepen the digital divide between skilled and unskilled workers?

The digital economy

The benefits of the digital economy are clear as they improve business performance and profit; the difficulties are equally clear as they disrupt traditional patterns of work and employment.

Like it or not the digital economy is growing at a rapid rate as it offers opportunities to new entrepreneurs and traditional businesses alike.

It also offers new types of jobs in technology businesses while creating technology jobs in old type businesses.

In each case, jobs are growing as digital activity expands and demand for people with the right skills and experience explodes to outstrip supply.

The digital sector includes businesses that operate solely in the digital space, businesses that use technology to disrupt traditional organisations and businesses that create whole new industries.

It draws attention because it grows more quickly than other areas, pays higher salaries, attracts people with higher skills, improves productivity and adds significant value to the economy.

A growing economy

The digital economy may have started life in select clusters in select parts of large cities but it has spread to reach all corners of commerce.

It includes app and software developers, cloud computing and cyber-security, data collection and analysis, digital advertising and marketing, gambling and gaming, and finance.

It embraces traditional areas such as aerospace and defence, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, marketing and design, science and medicine, and recruitment.

The growth of the digital economy is the most recent example of how technology disrupts business, as similar upheavals stretch back to the Industrial Revolution.

But today’s revolution is causing as much damage as any previous period as it forces businesses to become technology businesses and creates whole new swathes of endeavour.

The influence of digital is felt in every discipline as it spreads into accommodation, banking, insurance, libraries, museums, retailing, taxis and even mundane areas like utilities.

The digital economy is increasing the salaries of employees with the skills it covets, as it rewards staff at a higher rate than other areas of business.

The main challenge is a dearth of talent, as companies identify low skill levels amongst applicants as a key barrier to growth.

Given the importance of skills to the sector, it is not surprising that access to strong local networks ranks highly as a first step to success.

Such local networks and face-to-face Meetups have developed as key factors of support for digital businesses, as they encourage engagement from a wide pool of talent.

So, the digital economy is disrupting every aspect of business and our task is to be suitably skilled to narrow the divide and avoid the mayhem that awaits us.