Many risk being left behind by digitisation

If internet inequality is not adequately addressed, millions around the world could find themselves without a job, warned Microsoft president.
By: | July 20, 2020

As dire economic predictions continue to be heard around the world, the livelihoods of many are at stake.

Describing this as a “staggering jobs challenge”, Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, predicted that as many as a quarter of a billion people are at risk of losing their jobs this year because of COVID-19. And if the digital gap is not bridged moving forwards, millions will lack the new skills required to get jobs, or even to hang on to existing ones, he warned.

Smith acknowledged however, that some jobs, particularly in the developing world, simply cannot be digitised at this moment in time. “We live in a world of internet inequality, [and] if we don’t do something about it, we are going to exacerbate all the other inequalities that we all worry about.

“This is a task beyond any one company or any one government, but if we can reach 25 million people we will feel like we are doing our part.”

Smith was referring to a global skills initiative Microsoft launched earlier this year, which aims to equip 25 million people worldwide with digital skills and prepare them for new job opportunities in the post COVID-19 economy.

READ: Microsoft launches initiative to address unemployment crisis

He also urged governments to move more quickly to develop technology-focused laws that will ensure tech companies remain responsive and responsible under the rule of law.

“Fundamentally, the responsibility of companies and countries is to make sure that people have the skills to ensure they reap the benefits, rather than suffer from the consequences of the changes unleashed,” Smith concluded.