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Rise of the Gig Economy and What to Beware Of

For the past century since industrialization, we have all known that to hold a job means nine to six, Mondays to Fridays. This is also called full time job. However, the interest phenomenon of the gig economy emerged in the past 10 years and looks to reshape our very understanding of a full time employee. A gig economy is one where engagements between company and individual is on a temporary and contract basis, in some cases, even one-off. These people are contractors, not employees. They fulfill the scope of the engagement, which is also called a gig, hence the name gig economy.

The first time I came across this concept was 10 years ago. When I wanted to find help online to design logos or to write. Initially, I tried finding in craigslist, but it was rather disorganized and complicated. Then platforms such as Fiverr and Elance (now called Upwork) emerged. They are marketplaces where customers like ourselves find people to do basically anything online. Subsequently, these platforms start to connect online and offline where customers are engaging others to run errands such as shopping or deliver parcel. Task Rabbit is a perfect example. Gradually, the gig economy spreads to other traditional industries such as Food (FoodPanda, Deliveroo) and Transport (Grab, Uber). So why is the Gig economy so successful and is it really good for us

What Contributed to this Phenomenom

It takes 2 hands to clap and in the gig economy it is that of the company and the contractors. Firstly, in the increasingly fast-paced tech driven environment. Many companies face an uncertain future and do not want to commit resources the short term. They prefer to hire experts for specific projects and move on to the next. Companies save the cost in terms of space, training and benefits accorded to a full time employee. The companies can dispose of the contractor if they are not satisfied. There will not be the legal implications or labor law to content with. So there is a real demand for temporary contractors driven by companies.

Other the other hand, the contractors, majority of which are millennials and Gen Zs. This group of working age adults have a very different mindset compared to the baby boomer generations. They grew up inspired by successful entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. They want to create something of their own and be in charge of their destiny, the freedom to choose their work. They prefer flexibility, work-life balance and choose the type of work they want to do. The number of self-employed people will triple to 42 million by 2020, with 42 percent of them likely to be millennials.

The improvement in communication technology has also made it much easier for companies and freelancers to discuss and organize their work anytime anywhere. Skype, WhatsApp and web conference solutions are widely available and mostly free. The emergence of collaborative platforms such as Slack, Basecamp and Trello have helped all stakeholders keep track of the project deliverable. So be it for communications or project tracking, the gig economy has no shortage of enabling technology.

Social Implications of Gig Economy

While companies may benefit the most from gig economy because of the low cost and obligations. It may not hold true for the freelancers. As most of the contractors working in the gig economy are young and new to the business world. They are often taken advantage of. If clients fail to pay on time or have other tricks to delay payment, these freelancers are basically on their own. If it is an online engagement, it becomes even harder to track down the company. So who will fight for the freelancers’ rights?

Companies that have succeeded on the back of the gig economy are gladly gaining all their valuation and accolades. What they have exploited are these freelancers’ who have worked without social security. These workers are basically “naked” as they lack company sponsored insurance, retirement planning and no recourse against errant customers. Governments all over the world needs to recognize this and step in with relevant legislation to protect this expanding group of workers. New York rolled out “Freelance Isn’t Free Act” that lays out proper contract agreement between company and contractor. This is a step in the right direction in this new economy. Governments need to engage this group of freelancers and re-configure their labor policy to be all-inclusive, providing the necessary income and personal protection to them.

In summary, the gig economy is here to stay and will represent the new normal. An understanding between Government, organizations and freelancers is needed for this system to be fair to all parties. In the meanwhile, we just have to sail through this transition hoping to meet responsible customers or freelancers. Good Luck!

 

Taking The Opportunity with an AI Driven Future

If your company has noticed the effects of smart technology and automation, you certainly aren’t alone. Many organizations have enjoyed more efficiency and increased productivity, and it isn’t just in our homes that AI, or artificial intelligence has made an impact. But many of us still instinctively regard the increasing use of AI as a threat, rather than something that will bring about positive change; one of the most common concerns is that of humans having their jobs taken over by robots and machines.

Up to 30 percent of human labor could be undertaken by robots or machines by 2030, or between 400 million and 800 million jobs, according to research carried out by McKinsey Global Institute, which suggests the concerns are justified. McKinsey also forecasts that up to 375 million workers will be forced to completely switch jobs. Think of the recent rise on the Chinese labor economy or the shift away from agricultural work in the 20th century in Europe and the US; the so=called automation revolution could be more significant than either event.

Artificial Intelligence and Future of Jobs

More jobs will be created than will be lost as a result of this increased automation, according to some more optimistic companies. AI will need new systems to be developed and implemented and that should create jobs and ultimately affect the economy positively. Employees not having these skills is the most significant challenge when implementing artificial intelligence systems, according to 80 percent of those participating in the EY survey.

Simple problem solving tasks and those tasks that are repetitive are most likely to be replaced by AI. Financial institutions, customer service positions and industrial jobs will all see AI making decisions, rather than a human. Identifying financial crime and corruption, approving a loan and integrating new employees can all be efficiently handled by artificial intelligence.

More automation means more revenue, which in turn means that service sector supporting jobs benefit from more expenditure. Advances in technology have always created more jobs than they have eliminated, as can be verified when we look back at the advances in technology and automation made throughout history. This doesn’t stop people having concerns about AI and its long term effects, and it is easy to see why.

Healthcare and medicine are already benefiting from advances in artificial intelligence; more accurate diagnosis, more effective treatments and a higher rate of preventing disease are just some of the positive effects. And aid can be focused more where it is needed when it comes to the ongoing battle against world poverty, as AI is able to accurately analyze the data recorded and provided by satellites.

An AI Future Means More Opportunity

The area of education is just as important as business when it comes to harnessing the power of artificial intelligence. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics – the so-called STEM subjects – should be focused on more, and the importance of data analysts, programmers and other AI associated roles should be realized. When it comes to tasks that need imagination and building relationships, humans will always do better than a machine or a computer, although repetitive tasks are much more suited to AI.

The transition to AI may be difficult, although it can be made smoother by the encouragement of lifelong learning, making it easier to learn new skills and generally making major changes to the educational system. As the world changes continually, learning has to change too and become something we do all our lives, and not something that ends just because we finish school or college.

The new technology should be welcomed by companies to make sure they are enhancing human intelligence by implementing the most efficient possible AI system, and not simply worrying about the negative impact. Our workplace will change as will our lives outside the workplace, and ultimately this has to be accepted and welcomed. In the automotive industry, huge increases in efficiency and productivity can be enjoyed by using robots instead of people, but a robot designed specifically to work on a car production line wouldn’t be able to work in any other industry. In other words, a particular industry isn’t going to be adversely affected just because one industry has undergone a huge technological change.

Just about any industry can benefit from artificial intelligence, making it different from advances in technology that have gone before. The disruption to a specific type of industry isn’t confined to that one industry once you have AI that is capable of solving problems, recognizing sequences and patterns, or understanding language. The article you have just read wasn’t created by AI, but it could have been; the technology already exists. And it may seem hard for some to believe, but processing a lawsuit, dispensing medication and diagnosing illnesses isn’t something out of science fiction – AI is doing all that and more today.

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Its great to grow up in the 90s

Its great to grow up in the 90s! It was an incredible period for Gen Y babies, born in the 80s. As teenagers in the 90s, we experienced the fastest technological advances in our generation. Within this decade itself, we experienced revolutions in the way we communicate and also accessing information. For Gen Y babies, the 90s is a unique experience the previous Gen X and the following Gen Z Centennials will not have. Gen X were grown ups by then and probably focused on using technology for productivity, remember Palm Pilot? Whereas Gen Z were born into the Internet age and will not appreciate the transition from zero connectivity to online access. As teens in the 90s, we have the chance to explore each wave of technology that comes up, with each wave shorter than the previous.

Communications – How We Go Online

The way we communicate has seen the most changes in this decade. From how we communicate to what we use to communicate, it was a flurry of changes and upgrades. Remember the dialing tone from the modem inside the PC as we wait to access the Internet. That is called dial-up by the way. 56kpbs is like fiber broadband in those days. Just as we start to buy PCs with installed modem cards, broadband Internet access came along. We experienced a quantum jump, yes a quantum jump, to a grand 1Mbps. Hey, suddenly we can use Napster, the granddaddy of P2P file sharing, to download bigger media files!

Within 10 years, we leaped from zero to 2Mbps. Suddenly, all of us have a digital super highway to access information. Bring on the world!

Web 1.0 – An eye to the world

The history of the Internet started way back in the 1960s when the first message was sent over ARPANET. That paved the way for the development of the TCP/IP protocol in 70s as the standard for communicating in ARPANET. It wasn’t until the 80s when researchers in CERN lab Switzerland started to link hypertext documents into an information system accessible from any node that witnessed the birth of the World Wide Web. From the mid-90s, the World Wide Web flourished. That was Web 1.0 for you. It is one defined by static HTML pages without much interaction between user and website. It was good enough for us as suddenly, you can access a large amount of information from the comfort of your home. Messenger programs such as ICQ was a godsend way to make new friends and also dates đŸ™‚

We started using Internet Explorer before Netscape introduced tab browsing and allowed us to view multiple web pages in an elegant and simple manner. In my opinion, IE did not really recover from this user migration to Netscape. This is because the same group of users switched to using Mozilla Firefox and then now Chrome, we did not look back.

Devices used for communication

You could not have lived through the 90s without using one or more of the communication devices. The most iconic is first gen mobile phone, looks like a water bottle and as heavy as a brick. Within the same decade, it was phased out and replaced by the iconic phones from Nokia, Motorola and Ericsson. Each of this phone has their own unique features besides been 2x smaller than the 1st-Gen phone.

 

The grand daddy of all phones

Ericssion T28 – The real sleek and designer phone of that time. Just like how iPhone showed us how mobile phone is an art. Almost any working professional owns one and also teenagers who want to impress girls.

Motorola StarTac – History will always have a place for this. Motorola introduced the 1st clamshell phone and it claimed its place in history. I think its the action of opening up the “clam” to answer the call that makes owning this phone so special. In recent years, this model has been revived for that old “school” feel.

Nokia 3210 – It may not be the smallest or lightest, but Nokia 3210 is the most fun! Targeting the youth, it was a must have accessory if any kid wants to look cool. Youth nowadays bends over their phone playing different games, but youth in 90s bend over to play only…..SNAKE!

Oh, this is one hell of a sturdy phone, long battery life and resilient to the frequent drops.

Well if you cannot afford any of the above mobile phones in the 90s, then this is the best alternative. Goodbye to old school pagers, say hello to the Motorola Memo Jazz. A change of shape and splashing different colors suddenly making this old-man device appealing to the young. As memo jazz did not support character display, youths were forced to be ingenious, remember 17317071. Turn the memo jazz upside down and it reads something.

The age of the memo jazz was a rather short-lived one, as it only lasted a few years before mobile phone became mass market.

The 90s was an awesome period and I am glad to have grown up during that period, straddling between offline and online, developing the first web lingos of that period. Thanx for the fond memories…..17317071!

 

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SkillsFuture – A Program to Upgrade Singapore Workers

The Singapore government has always been proactive in preparing the working population for the global challenge. Turn back time to the period post-Sars where Singapore and greater Asia experienced a recession. Back then, the Singapore government decided to form Workforce Development Agency (WDA), now called Workforce Singapore (WSG), in a bid to retrain the workers and move them up the value chain. Through a combination of sound financial policy and industry collaboration, the working adults generally came through the recession unscathed.

Returning to the current times, it is not exactly a recession period as financial markets experienced the longest bull run in history. However, Singapore workers are still getting retrenched or having difficulty finding jobs with same scope as before. This is all down to one word, Technology. Cloud computing, Fibre broadband, 5G network, Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Sharing Economy and everything within the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) Model. You name it and there will be a disruptive model or technology that has reshaped the traditional industries we know. There have been no shortage of articles and research that all point towards disappearing jobs in the next 10 years.

So how do the Singapore government go about preparing for this seismic change in the economy ahead. Training, training and more training. Be it ground up or top down, you can find government supported schemes the workers can tap on to retool themselves within their industry and even across industries. SkillsFuture is one of the most important programs to have come out of this national initiative.

The 4 key objectives of SkillsFuture include:

  1. Help individuals to make well-informed choices in education, training and careers
  2. Develop an integrated, high-quality system of education and training that responds to constantly evolving industry needs
  3. Promote employer recognition and career development based on skills and mastery
  4. Foster a culture that supports and celebrates lifelong learning

The government is working hard to seed the idea to every working adult that there is no resting on the laurels and learning is a continuous lifelong activity. $1 billion dollars a year will be set aside to fund a series of schemes under SkillsFuture. The most popular of which is the SkillsFuture credit where every Singaporean above 25 years old will have $500 credit they can use to pay for courses to upgrade themselves. Workers have the freedom to choose courses in digital marketing even if they are in a manufacturing role, as long as they are willing to learn. They can find the courses in the SkillsFuture course directory and contact the training provider to enroll directly.

Such is the extent the local government has gone to ensure Singapore has a competitive workforce. The program is still in the early stage and from the look of it, it needs to be a permanent one as job disruption driven by technology is here to stay. Whether the Singapore employee is resilient, we can only know when the next recession hits, meanwhile, we just have to commend the effort.