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Has Technology Stolen our Jobs or Made New Ones?

By April 2, 2019 No Comments

Recently at the office, we had a brainstorming session on how best our nonprofit can serve beneficiaries using technology. This resulted in an intense conversation about the possibilities of employees losing their relevance as there are technological alternatives to carrying out the tasks in their job description. Then a colleague asked a billion-dollar question that kept everyone thinking – “Has technology stolen our jobs or made new ones?”
Years ago, manual labour was the way things were done until slowly but surely change came into our lives. The best tools, back in the day, used to carry out farming, for instance, were slow in their production rate compared to today’s digital farming 1.
With the industrial revolution came “The Spinning Jenny” which was invented by James Hargreaves in 1764, reduced the amount of time needed to produce a cloth with a worker controlling the machine and working at least 8 spools at the same time which did increase with the advancement of technology 2. Since the advent of the industrial revolution, there has been an evident display of ingenuity in research resulting in wonderful technological feats.
We live in a very dynamic and ever-changing society with twists, turns and swerves on the road of trends and norms. With the increasing awareness of entrepreneurship and innovation and mind-blowing breakthroughs in technology, every aspect of society is continually being disrupted by technology and as such technology has come to stay and undoubtedly has gained a stronghold within the fabric of society and without mincing words, it’s safe to say technology has made life easier.
 The two sides of the rise of technology…
 For one, technology has made accessing, handling and transferring of information easier. In every sector associated with the necessities of man, technology is involved.
Like every other aspect of life, a single story cannot be formed around the place of technology in society. While some celebrate the place of technology in society, others see technology as a bane to their survival. While some see how technology has taken jobs or caused a reduction in the workforce of today, others see how technology has opened new doors and opportunities for them to rebrand themselves and take new opportunities 3.
A way this can be looked at scenario two is the Automated Teller Machines popularly called the ATMs; which can be used to deposit and withdraw cash from a bank customer’s account. The days of long queues in banks before transactions are gone or drastically reduced. An ATM could do the work of 6 counter attendants without fatigue, pay, needing health benefits or needing a break – it is an efficient alternative.
When you consider these points, one could argue that technology is indeed replacing jobs. However, there is still a percentage of the population that largely consists of the older generation who prefer the traditional banking system. While some look at ATMs as taking bank counter jobs, some look at it as an opening in the banking industry for tech enthusiasts.
Another scenario that comes up in the discussion of technology and traditional jobs is the pitching of the Uber versus the Yellow taxi in Lagos metropolis. Uber and Taxify have leveraged technology to disrupt the transportation space. Compared to what has always been obtained in the case of the yellow cabs which are usually rickety and with no standard of pricing – except discretion and continuous haggling – this new system is the total opposite. Recently, Gokada and Metro Access Xpress (Max ng) are also an easy escape for many for the traffic that is littered on the roads in Lagos between the Island and the mainland. Their riders are trained, cautious and have a standard pricing system. This is just an example of the transportation industry. The wave of technology keeps increasing into a major aspect of our lives.
The impact of technology on the older generation (in the African context)
Again, mere observation shows that the majority of the yellow taxi drivers around Lagos are with little or no form of education hence they have no grasp of technology. They are being put out of business hence, denying them the ability to take care of their (sometimes several) wives, send their children to school – thereby imprisoning them in the vicious cycle of poverty.
Furthermore, there is another class in society – those in the slums and the older generation; who feel threatened by the advent of technology or are totally oblivious to the fact technology is changing the demands of skills needed and is opening another market entirely – freelancing.
My views…
No doubt, technology has made life easier than what it used to be. It has created new jobs that never existed and has taken many out of poverty.
Nevertheless, the change that it brings constantly renders different jobs obsolete, thereby constantly increasing the poverty population in developing countries.
The solution, therefore, is digital inclusion – further access to and the use of technology in developing countries.

  1. Read article here: Technology Hope for African Farmers – Financial Times – https://www.ft.com/content/3316885c-b07d-11e8-87e0-d84e0d934341
  2. The Spinning Jenny: Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spinning_jenny
  3. Read article here: Artificial Intelligence: Now that Machines are Coming for Our Jobs… – https://tlfirst.com/insights/detail/artificial-intelligence-now-that-machines-are-coming-for-our-jobs-