"Connecting to Work", which the World Bank has just published, highlights how ICTs help employ and empower workers around the globe. Read more
Across the globe, we are seeing a transformation of the world of work thanks to information and communication technologies or ICTs. ICTs are influencing employment both as an industry that creates jobs and as a tool that empowers workers to access new forms of work, in new and more flexible ways.
In our policy note, “Connecting to Work,” we consider what countries can do to prepare for these changes and maximize employment opportunities.
We look at how ICTs are providing new avenues for job creation that could help tackle global unemployment. Take the mobile phone applications industry: a firm that provides a digital application to the Apple app store, for instance, gains access to over 500 million app store account holders.
ICTs also connect people to jobs. Online employment marketplaces are helping an estimated 12 million people worldwide find work by connecting them with employers globally. Babajob in India, Duma and M-Kazi in Kenya, and Souktel in the Middle East and North Africa are some examples.
ICTs are enabling new, more flexible forms of employment and work. An example is online contracting, which uses ICT to increase access to work opportunities worldwide, mainly for smaller employers. Two popular platforms called oDesk and Elance proposed about 2.5 million jobs in 2012.
ICTs create opportunities, but they also pose new challenges for workers and employers. Many ICT-enabled jobs are temporary or contract-based, leading to a separation of work from social safety nets such as health insurance. But, for young people especially, they offer a way into more formal careers, as well as providing a supplementary income.
To maximize the positive impact of ICTs on employment, we recommend that policymakers pay attention to five enabling systems: human capital, infrastructure, social, financial, and regulatory systems. The mix will depend on the country.
The potential gains from ICT-enabled work are not without risks and challenges. But the implications of ICT for work are inevitable and will benefit those students, workers, firms, and governments who prepare for them.