Future Development Reads: The future of work for our children and global internet trends

A customer uses computer in an internet cafe at Changzhi

If you have teenage children, you have surely wondered what they will do in the future. Often enough you might even ask yourself, “What are they doing now?” This week’s Future Development Reads thus focuses on the future of work, which Homi Kharas also covered during last year’s Labor Day post, as well as global internet trends. 

Arun Sundararajan from the Stern School of Business argues in a piece for the International Monetary Fund’s finance and development that the digital economy will “sharply erode the traditional employer-employee relationship.” Future economies will increasingly rely on “short-term freelance relationships rather than full-time employment.” “The social contract must be refashioned to accommodate a different kind of workforce.” This also means that early university degrees will increasingly become irrelevant.

We need to say good-bye to our familiar lifecycle. Instead of “learn-work-retire” it will be continuous learning, formal and informal.

“Instead of focusing primarily on two- or four-year postsecondary institutions that educate early in life, as we did in the 20th century, society must create robust educational institutions that help workers make midcareer transitions. Moreover, the largely employer-funded portion of the social safety net—which often includes medical insurance, paid vacation time, workplace insurance, retirement contributions, and predictable salaries that stabilize earnings—must be rethought in an era of greater individual entrepreneurship.”

Kleiner Perkins published the Global Internet Trends 2017, a compendium of 355 slides filled with colorful illustrations and data of the state of the internet, especially in the major markets in the U.S., China, and India. The first 287 slides cover tech and (social) media. They can give you a glimpse not just of the future lives of our children but their current lives. For example, you might be surprised that more than a third of the world population, some 2.6 billion people, are part of the global gaming industry, which is now valued at more than $100 billion. The average age of a gamer is 35 years old. Gary Whitta, a veteran in the game industry and video game journalist, said that when he plays a video game, it’s the only time he puts “away the phone and forget it exists.”

Other highlights of the Global Internet Trends report:

  • In 2015, the world generated an estimated 12 zettabytes (ZB) of data, which is 120 times larger than in 2005 and more than there are grains of sand on the planet. The exponential rise is set to continue reaching 47 ZB by 2020 and 163 ZB by 2030. Equally important is the rising share of tagged and structured data, which is now above 10 percent.
  • Smartphone growth has been slowing now at 3 percent. However, it might reach 1.5 billion shipments in 2017. Over the last three years, some 4 billion smartphones were sold, equivalent to two-thirds of the world population above 10 years old.
  • In the U.S., mobile internet advertising already overtook desktop advertising in 2014. In 2016, Google earned $35 billion in advertising revenue in the U.S. (+20 percent); Facebook earned $13 billion (+62 percent).
  • Voice recognition accuracy reached 95 percent, which is the threshold for human accuracy.