According to the president of Microsoft, Brad Smith, with about a quarter of a billion people set to lose their job this year because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the world is facing a staggering jobs challenge.
And with the surge of digitization of various economies, it is critical for millions to either adapt to the changing scenario by learning new skills or simply hang on to their old one, Smith says.
A plan to delivery skills and training to about 25 million people globally by this year was announced by Microsoft recently. The company will not only offer skills and training but also offer certificates and help people in finding jobs.
Microsoft-owned LinkedIn will be used by the United States based software giant to achieve this. But there would be many jobs in many countries that would be beyond the reach of digital retraining, admitted Smith.
“It’s true that the nature of work varies widely around the world. Not all jobs can be digitized, particularly in the developing world. We live in a world of internet inequality – 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 said in an interview to the media.
Under this program, grants to the tune of $20 million will be made to non-profit organizations by Microsoft in addition to offering of free use of their services. This amount could appear to many to be fairly small given the fact that the market valuation of Microsoft has increased by $500bn within the past one year itself.
While the big US tech was perceived to be powerful prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, it now looks commanding now. About 20 per cent of the value of the S&P 500 index is comprised by just five companies.
But many feel that the big tech is too powerful and there is need for controlling their power.
“Tech is a powerful tool but it can also be a formidable weapon in the wrong hands,” Smith says. “So this is a critical time for technology, it has more responsibility than ever.”
“I think people have more questions than ever and that’s not a bad thing. To ensure that technology is a force for good, governments need to move more quickly to develop technology-focused laws. While tech companies need to exert some self-restraint,” Smith added.
On the issue of achieving a global agreement on the structure and format for regulating and taxing technology companies, which has been a precarious issue, there are many countries that are apparently getting nervous because of the increased digitization of their economies which is making it harder to generate the tax revenue they will need to pay for the trillions of dollars of damage Covid-19 has done.
“I think the good news is that governments have all the tools they need to make sure that tech companies remain responsive and responsible under the rule of law,” he says.
“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.
“I think we all need to recognize that tech cannot solve everything, but almost nothing can be solved without us. We need to be at the table.”
(Adapted from BBC.com)