miércoles, 11 de junio de 2014

The needed (and feared) digital transformation of #gov workforce

"The Second Machine Age" is a book that deserves a read by all those interested in the digital economy. I do not think this will be the last entry in which I Included a mention to a book that I really enjoyed its reading. One of the thinks that provides the book is an important set of examples on how digital technologies is changing the nature of the labour in different areas.

One of these outstanding examples is the photograph sector. While the book includes the estimation that 10% of all times photographs were taken in the last year, at the same time provides figures of the declining of the labour force especifically dedicated to the photograph sector. The 145,300 people that Kodak employed at one point have been disolved among digital cameras embedded in smartphones and sharing and likes in socialmedia. The labour force in the sector has decreased but the usage of its products has dramatically increased.

And the photograph sector is neither the first nor the last sector to be transformed. It is well-known the case of the music sector and currently there are interesting cases of labour force transformation around the shared economy models. Uber is one of this cases. The resistance to digitalisation in this case will be as futile as in other cases, in spite of the extreme cases of analogue chasing of the uber "service providers".

One of the sectors that is resisting the transformation of its labour force is the government. Although the digitisation of public services is growing, we are not seeing a significant decrease in the number of civil servants. Probably, because the core tasks done by civil servants are at their first stage of digitisation. We are currently living the automatisation of the routinary work (e.g. the reception of applications) but the non-routinary chores has been scarcely changed by digital technologies (e.g. writing reports or studies on a topic). And the chores still to be transformed are those that consume more human resources. The civil servants would like to think that tasks as writing reports and studies will never be done by a machine, but there are some cases of succesful piece of news and academy articles written by computers.

The automatisation of non-routinary work in government will have as a consequence the changing on the balance of the civil servants workforce. There will be a big need of people dedicated to the creation of the algorithms capable of transforming the information in knowledge and products. Besides the automatisation of the creation of reports, it is the case of other activities, like taking a decision on grants and fundings. It will be needed more people with STEM (science, technology, engineering y mathematics) skills that are currently employed in the public sector.

It is presumable that the transformation of the workforce in the civil service will find the same fiery resistance than in the cases of music, photograph or urban private transport. However, this transformation will happen. It is a need to provide more efficient and effective public services. But it would be better that the society begins the preparations for such a transformation instead of denying it. The precentage of public employes in the total labour force in developed countries is so high, that it will be the real moment of truth for the transformation of work.

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