Why Technology Is Increasing Global Inequality

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No one can fully escape technology. New iPhones are released every year or so, Amazon is constantly rolling out the latest Kindle editions, and Android also has their finger on the latest gadget pulse. If you live in a first world country, we have to go out of our way to avoid technology. The technology mentality is to always want the newest, shiniest, fastest running device out there.

While technology is extremely useful, it’s fruitless to deny that it doesn’t come without its concerns. The World Bank reported that the technology industry’s economy contributes to an increasingly socioeconomic divide between the wealthy and the less fortunate. In their report, they state that “the effect of technology on global productivity, expansion of opportunity for the poor and the middle class and the spread of accountable governance has so far been less than expected.”

Their findings showed that global productivity after the tech revolution has slowed down, and inequalities are getting worse and worse. Especially in developed countries like the U.S., the divide between the upper and lower class is like night and day.

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One question we should be asking ourselves is that, why, even with all our technological and societal progress, are many people left out of the tech revolution?

This might come as a shock, but 60% of the world’s population does not have Internet, and at least 2 billion people don’t even have a cell phone. This presents a problem, especially when people are looking to get a job in the technology industry, or any field where you need to know how to use a computer. The technological advancement has shifted the way we work; now many lower-level jobs have become automated, which leads to millions of people getting laid off and rising unemployment numbers. If workers do not have access to the tools and education needed to master certain technological skills, then those same workers cannot compete for high-level employment opportunities. Many tech companies are advertising for positions such as engineers, but there aren’t as many positions available for jobs that require less training and a lower skill set.

While the industry claims that anyone could break into the market, the reality isn’t that simple. Breaking into the tech field is similar to gaining access into an exclusive club. Technological companies are controlled by people who have a lot of power within the industry, people who have high-level positions. It’s not an exaggeration that without the resources and education, it’s much more difficult to get a well-paid position at a successful company.

Just like other corporations in society, the technology sector also centers on monopolies, like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook. Silicon Valley’s startup scene might paint a different picture, but they’re only a part of the whole tech industry, and that industry does not favor competition. Remember the battle between MySpace and Facebook? Do you even recall Ask Jeeves?

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Is there anything we can do about this widening gap? One thing we can do is to make sure that everyone has Internet access so they’re able to compete with other viable applicants. Giving everyone access to the Internet, however, is not enough. The tech industry needs to create initiatives that make way for more innovation from outside the conglomerates. The World Bank suggests that an increase of regulations and laws would make way for a stronger tech field. Those laws would center around on an increase in innovation freedom and decision to move away from the monopolies and focus on embracing competition.

We can also lessen the gap between the rich and the poor by giving everyone an opportunity. Everyone–not just the poor, need sufficient education and training. The World Bank asks that all “accountable institutions” step up and make an honest effort to help those who need training so that they can learn the necessary skills. If the tech sector was held more accountable and complied with stricter industry-wide standards, maybe the high-tech environment could be more inclusive.

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There are some areas of the tech industry that make it possible to involve more people in the field that is taking over our global society. The World Bank asserts that the Internet is all inclusive (for those who have access). Anyone with a connection can utilize the countless number of resources and tools that help users get a leg up on competition, especially if those tools provide insight into starting an online business. The Internet also allows you to bypass the corporate bureaucracy. For example, to make some extra cash and start an online venture, you can easily rent out your room on Airbnb, promote a service or network. You do not navigate your way through various roadblocks like proving you have a good credit score or taking out some loans. Platforms like Amazon allow you to drive traffic to your site and increase the chances of success for your viral business.

In their report, The World Bank concluded that in addition to making the Internet more accessible to people around the world, we must push for laws and regulations that would open up the industry and give everyone equal opportunities. The industry and those who support it must push for an innovative education and training program that allows even those working with fewer resources to get involved. This won’t be a small task, and will require a large effort from the tech sector, but to improve the social and economic challenges that have risen out of growing technology, it’s a step we must take.

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