The Information Age/New Work
Will the widespread introduction of ICT lead to mass unemployment?
Jeremy Rifkin suggests that the rise of productivity as a consequence of ICT deployment affects the amount of time worked in two ways.  First, labor and time saving technologies have allowed companies to eliminate and dismiss workers en masse. Second, those who manage to hold their jobs are made to work longer hours. For firms a smaller workforce means saving on the cost of providing benefits such as health care.
But the history of the industrial revolution suggests that workers will not disappear; only particular kinds of workers will. Peter Drucker gives us a clue on what kinds of work will disappear. According to Drucker, “the Information Revolution has routinized traditional processes in an untold number of areas.”  Just as the industrial revolution mechanized weaving, the information revolution will replace what has been automated by robots. The scenario is not much different from what transpired in previous eras and technology revolutions.
There will always be room for workers, but the areas or fields of demand will change.
What kind of workers will be needed?
The breadth of new work in the information age is immense. New workers can be seen in traditional industries (old workers renewed), in new ICT-related services and content provision (the information workers), in infrastructure development and maintenance of the information economy (information managers and entrepreneurs) and in a host of related areas.
Among the most in demand and sought after workers are information technology (IT) professionals. According to a 1999 US Commerce Department study: “For more than 15 years, employment in the core IT occupations—computer scientists, computer engineers, system analysts and computer programmers—has grown at an astounding pace. The growth rate for computer scientists and system analysts has even accelerated in recent years.”  The recent downturn has not changed this trend; it has only slowed down the demand.
But it is not only IT professionals who will thrive. What Robert Reich calls “symbolic analysts”—engineers, attorneys, scientists, professors, executives, journalists, consultants and other “mind workers” who engage in processing information and symbols for a living—will occupy a privileged position in that they can sell their services in the global economy. In an economy where information is critical, symbolic analysts or “knowledge workers” will constitute an elite group.
- Box 7. The New Workforce (excerpts)
- Source: “The Next Society: A Survey of the Near Future,” The Economist (November 3, 2001), 8-11.
What are attention givers?
Another category of workers that will emerge are attention-givers—people who care for, tend to, or oversee children, the elderly, the disabled, the depressed and anxious, as well as more or less healthy adults who want more attention for themselves and are able and willing to pay for it. 
Two reasons account for the growth of the attention industry. First is the increasing number of people who work harder and subcontract family responsibilities, many of which involve giving attention. Second, with the growing productivity of machines (computerized machine tools and robots inside factories, and, in the service economy, automated bank tellers, automated gas pumps, voice activated telephone answering systems, and digital devices), they will soon be capable of doing just about everything. Everything, that is, except personal attention. So those with jobs that have been replaced by highly productive machines sell personal attention instead, and this trend will continue as the years pass. 
Will there still be farmers in the future?
The information revolution will not eliminate farmers, just as the industrial revolution did not eliminate them. But farming methods will change yet again. More information will help farmers to irrigate only those areas that need water and provide for more effective use of fertilizers, among others. In addition, agricultural biotechnology genetically modifies plants and food sources to maximize their reproduction and nutritional value.
Aside from increased yield, faster communications and transactions and lower transportation costs also ensure more efficient delivery of farm inputs that lead to lower prices and better inventory.
What about entrepreneurs? What role do they have in the new economy?
It has been suggested that the Internet is a natural environment for entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are innovators who implement change within markets through the introduction of new goods, new methods of production or new markets. Gregory K. Ericksen believes that enterpreneurs will flourish in the new Internet society:
- …the Internet world calls for a personality portfolio that comes naturally to entrepreneurs. It demands a willingness to take risks, a whole-hearted commitment to the enterprise, a sense of timing, and a readiness to act fast. The challenge of the Internet is not technology, whish is the enabler. The challenges and the opportunities are based on problem solving and innovations that deliver true value. Ideas that make a difference can and must be put into action quickly. 
How do we nurture entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurs flourish in an environment that allows the free flow of ideas, encourages risk taking and accepts failure as a necessary part of doing business. Creating entrepreneurs is also linked to an environment of lifelong learning. The European Commission defines lifelong learning as “all learning activity undertaken throughout life, with the aim of improving knowledge, skills and competence, within a personal, civic, social and/or employment-related perspective.”  Lifelong learning involves acquiring and updating all kinds of abilities, interests, knowledge and qualifications to enable citizens to adapt to the information age. If designed and implemented properly, ICT use in education can promote the acquisition of the knowledge and skills that will empower students for lifelong learning in the 21st century.
- Box 9. Educating Entrepreneurs
- Source: Cathy Ashmore, “Five Stages of Lifelong Learning,” in The Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education [home page on-line]; available from http://www.entre-ed.org/_entre/5-stages.htm; accessed 29 August 2002.