Dienstag, September 26, 2006

Internet - job engine or job killer!?

Yesterday I drove my car home from work and I remembered that I still had a birthday gift certificate in my glove department for the second part of a kite-boarding course, which I started last year, but then the wind died. While driving I pulled out the certificate and looked at it. Besides the organizational stuff it had this URL on it: http://www.kiteboardingfehmarn.de/. I remembered that the course was all the way up north on the island of Fehmarn in a tiny little city called Gold, with about three houses. Then I thought: How did small companies like this surf school get clients before we got the internet in 1995? That is only 11 years ago and I can barely remember... Ok we possibly pulled out the thick yellow pages book and started looking. But most of the time this only included business in the region you lived in. You possibly had a chance to find a business far a way by calling some local tourist information... then my thoughts began to race... Is the internet a chance for small local businesses that are located near some big metropolitan areas? Is the internet or the digialization maybe not a job killer, but a job engine? I do not have the necessary macroeconomic and demographic data at hand to answer the question, but here are some pros and cons as food for thought:

Job Killer Examples:
  1. Travel industry: local travel agents will soon be disappeared and will be replaced by travelsites
  2. Bank industry: I haven´t seen my bank office in about 3 years, since I do internet banking
  3. Flight Check-In: Most of the time I check in at a machine or via the phone
  4. Public Tax administration: I did my last tax statement completely via the PC and handed it in via the internet (ELSTER), a great productivity increase this must be for the tax experts, but also a possible job killer
Job Engine Examples:
  1. Software industry: thousands of jobs have been created around webdesign, e-commerce systems, business software, intranets, CRM, Supply Chain Management...
  2. Online Retailers: In Germany around 60.000 people live off eBay, either by being Sellers themselves or by working for a company that makes money from services or software around eBay.
  3. SMEs: Many small and medium-sized businesses that found out how to do online-marketing have a much greater visibility today and found new customers that not only drive longer ways to visit the store, but that also order online, e.g. specialized Spanish fancy food stores, surf schools, small hotels, restaurants, hiking equipment sellers, surfboard sellers, translation services...
  4. Gaming, fun and services industry: many new jobs have been created thanks to the new medium, which were not possible in the old days, e.g. Online-Games, online picture processing, home office workers, flirt- and chat platforms...

In the end you can make up your mind yourself or start looking for university studies and public statistics on www.metager.de to find out the truth.

I finally arrived at home and felt deeply sorry for the thousands of people who might have lost their job, because of too much competition from the internet or from overwhelming robot productivity, but on the other hand I was hoping that many of them were able to retrain themselves with new PC- and software skills to find new jobs and I was very optimistic about the digital times ahead, since it bears great chances even for the smallest local OTC companies, but we definitely need more students with programming skills to help all the business get connected.

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