What work will we do when manufacturing in Australia is dead?

Of course I have to tell you it is technology to the rescue. Not that technology will save us per se.

Technology has the key to new jobs on a global scale at a rapidly accelerating rate. This concept was made brutally clear to me as I read a recent article by McKinsey and Company, ‘10 IT-enabled business trends for the decade ahead’ (May 2013, Jacques Bughin, Michael Chui, and James Manyika).

According to the authors, the 10 big things ahead in technology are:

1. Joining the social matrix

2. Competing with ‘big data’ and advanced analytics

3. Deploying the internet of all things

4. Offering anything as a service

5. Automating knowledge work

6. Engaging the next three billion digital citizens

7. Changing experiences where digital meets physical

8. ‘Freeing’ your business model through internet-inspired personalisation and simplification

9. Buying and selling as digital commerce leaps ahead

10. Transforming government, healthcare, and education

I am not about to write a several hundred word summary of this five-and-a-half thousand word article. If you don’t understand what these things are and you are making IT decisions for your business then it may be time you did some extra reading. I simply wish to share my observation about the opportunity of our age. Clearly it is not in the manufacturing sector, as that is now being done offshore at rates we cannot compete with.

With our high level of education, Australia is well placed to take an active role in providing the intelligence that businesses need in the emerging technology trends. These 10 trend areas are the areas where workers are required. It is the material the youth of today needs to be learning at universities or on the web and be providing to businesses.

Gartner have said that in 2015 only one third of all business analysis jobs will be filled due to a lack of available skilled workers. This means these people who can leverage massive advantage to businesses will be more highly paid than doctors and lawyers.

Getting the analysis of big data or even small data right will drive faster decisions and actions in business, leading to better profits. Tools that create meaningful visual displays leading to faster decisions will be seen in most businesses either inside applications or as a layer over existing applications. Paying someone large sums of money to do the work to compile and manage the data will become the norm in just two to three years’ time.

Connecting more things to the internet that now has over twelve billion connected devices will change the way we work. It will create new jobs and drive great efficiency in diagnostic work leading to more timely maintenance, much as we have done with computers over the past 10 years. There will be jobs in setting up these monitoring and management systems.

Technology as a service and anything else as a service will move people from owning stuff to using it as and when they need it. Plenty of potential new businesses there; just look to data centres hosting private cloud server solutions for an example of useful, scalable and profitable business based on removing problems from other people’s business.

Automating knowledge work will lead to a change in the speed at which research into any topic can be completed. This may even move to reduce the size of research teams significantly. Voice recognition and rapid searching of thousands of documents in seconds is already changing our personal access to information.

If you don’t think this is going to matter, just try asking SIRI a question on your iPhone once you would have been lucky to find the answer in 10 minutes if you had the Britannica Encyclopaedia handy. Now multiply that by a factor for the impact it can have on academic research or legal case research.

As more people join the internet, more aspects of how transactions are done globally will change. An additional three billion people connected is significant and will create significant opportunities for the people who act to provide something to the internet connected world.

Where digital meets physical is another opportunity point as online life mimics real life, with kids buying clothes for their in-game persona. Or devices that let us control electronic devices with gestures.

A quick look at the controls on the new X-Box One, where we can control our entertainment stack with voice and gestures, do video hook-ups with friends via Skype, play games, watch TV and go shopping via the web browser is all new age thinking. Fifteen years ago this was the stuff of science fiction.

Google Glass has also arrived in Australia offering the entry of wearable technology. This is just the beginning of a whole raft of new age job opportunities. A shift to occupational health and safety with live monitoring of actions of individuals to ensure they are safer and so much more to come.

There are so many opportunities that Australia is well placed to be a part of if we get our education and training right and if we get our business investment right with the right incentives set up by government.

Now, as some industries in Australia crumble and become unsustainable, we need to turn our focus to new areas that can be sold to the world via the digital highway of the internet. If you are in the camp that can’t see the point of the NBN in Australia, I suspect you have not spent much time contemplating what your kids will do for jobs in five or ten years’ time.

High tech and services to the world is what it will be about. However, don’t get complacent or assume we are entitled; there is cheap labour available in developing nations with a focus on developing IT hubs. It will not take long before these threats leave Australia in the dust if we do not take prompt action to be a leader.

David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.



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