The COVID crisis has completely turned the world upside down. It’s caused us all to spend a lot more time thinking about transmittable diseases and how quickly infections can spread. But it’s also rapidly accelerated some technological developments that had been slowly on the rise over recent years. What does it all mean for the IT (job) market?
Let’s be clear about something from the very beginning: if the world had been impacted by something like COVID-19 just ten years ago, the entire global economy would have come crashing down completely. Thanks to technologies that have really only been around for about five or six years, we’ve been able to keep things moving. Ten years ago, a massive increase in videoconferencing like the one we’re seeing now would have pushed the internet to its limits. Not to mention the many times more data being transferred because of streaming services like Netflix during the age of lockdowns. And even though ordering food and other products online isn’t exactly new, we’ve never done it more than we have in the past year.
Our entire society has taken part in a collective crash course on how digitalisation works over the past months. And it’s not just consumers who have had to adjust. Companies that had already taken the first steps towards digitalising could quickly tell whether they were on the right path or not. Other organisations are now doing everything they can to catch up.
And that includes much more than just being able to work from home. Companies have also learned that digitalisation also means calling their old business models into question. Booking.com and Airbnb are prime examples of how digitalisation changed the way we look at business economics for good. These companies sell accommodations without owning a single hotel or B&B themselves. Takeaway.com and Uber use similar business models. And who actually buys software anymore these days? Practically all software makers have switched to a subscription-based model.
12 million new IT jobs
What all these companies have in common is that, without digitalisation, they would never be able to keep doing business the way they do. All their business processes are digitalised. This has major implications for the IT market now that many companies are trying to follow those examples as quickly as they can.
The World Economic Forum concludes in ‘Future of Jobs Report 2020’ that a shift will take place: some jobs will disappear, but others will be created to take their place. Many tasks can be just as well performed by a computer and an algorithm. This will result in 85 million jobs being made redundant around the world. However, to continue automating working processes in the years ahead, it’s going to take a lot of IT personnel. The organisation reports that the demand for data analysts, software developments and robotics experts will create 97 million new jobs worldwide. The WE Forum does not release specific numbers for the Netherlands alone. What this all means is that the IT job market will continue to boom.
Pausing to reflect
Yet, there is a dark side to this rapid digitalisation. The Dutch Scientific Council for Governmental Policy has published an article in which it warns against excessive tech-optimism or even what it calls ‘tech-chauvinism’. The Council argues that we should take this moment to pause and evaluate the true effects of digitalisation. It’s not just technology that is rapidly on the rise, but also the downsides of technology as well. Privacy issues have suddenly taken on an entirely new scale (take Zoom, for example). The consequences of globalisation are becoming more visible (with private data falling into the hands of major American companies). And there’s a risk that society will become even further divided into two categories: those who keep up with technology and those who lack the resources to do so.
This gives us all plenty of food for thought in these hectic times. Undoubtedly, there will come a time when digitalisation returns (at least for a time) to a slower pace. But one thing is certain: the world and its technology will definitely look much different ten years from now.