The Sharing Economy is bunk. It is not transformative but rather just the latest wrinkle in the modern service-based economy.

In the case of Uber and its competitors, it brings an unenlightened piecework mentality to the local-transportation business while absolving its owners from responsibility for its employees. In the case of AirBNB and its competitors, it brings an unnatural upward skewing to residential real-estate prices while absolving its owners from responsibility for its accommodations.

Focus on the Q Sectors
It's better that we focus our efforts on using modern Information Technology to improve existing businesses and organizations in the traditional sectors of our economies. In doing so, we will create new and better job opportunities in the emerging, transformative “Q sectors” of our economies instead of simply degrading wages and jobs in the service sector.

The Q sectors are known as the quaternary and quinary sectors in economics-speak. That simply means “fourth” and “fifth,” following the traditional primary (agriculture and extraction), secondary (manufacturing), and tertiary (services) nomenclature.

The quaternary (fourth) sector describes the knowledge-based part of the economy, and includes software development and most other traditional IT jobs. The fifth (quinary) sector is sometimes thought of as a “gold-collar” sector and includes software architects, Big Data analysts, and an emerging generation of data-savvy, multi-skilled managers and executives.

Restore Upward Mobility
The onset of manufacturing vastly increased societal wealth, and re-concentrated it. Though its initial horrors led to reforms, in the end it provided much higher wages for families than the labor of the farm. Societies that industrialized become the wealthy ones and formed the domineering economic centers of the world to this day. Industrialization gave us the concept of upward mobility.

The onset of service-focused economies, powered by the Information Age and Information Technology, has served to increase the gap in wealth from haves and have-nots. But where manufacturing jobs follow a uniform, steadily increasing wage and prestige scale, the service economy has spawned everything from low-paid Macjobs to Wall Street trough-feeding.

Creation of the Q sectors promises to restore the hope of upward mobility. The high end remains spectacular as with the service sector, to be sure – there's a mad quest on for Data Scientists at the moment, for example – but the lower end still represents good opportunities that pay well.

With enough people pulling in the same direction, we should be able to create millions of jobs globally in areas such as network administration, system maintenance, and QA, jobs that can be obtained by people with a general education backed by some specific training and certification. There should be millions of programming jobs as well, jobs that require an interest in languages and frameworks more than they require formal education.

A Look at Numbers
We've reviewed the percentages of each of the traditional three sectors within the 108 nations we cover in our research at the Tau Institute. Generally speaking, the wealthier economies will lead the tertiary sector, the poorer countries will be most heavily centered on the primary sector, and there will be a lot of variety in between them.

A couple of examples illustrate the point: Ghana's primary-secondary-tertiary economy sector percentages are 22-28-50 compared to 2-21-78 for the United States. The US has a per-person income that is more than 28 times that of Ghana. Closer to home, Canada's percentages are 2-28-70 and its per-person income is more than 80% that of the US.

We do our IT rankings based on relative progress, not absolute achievement. This provides the developing nations of the world, such as Ghana, a much more fair-minded view of technology progress, in our view. It's like a pound-for-pound ranking for national economies.

Measuring Relative Progress
Our formulas, critically, measure dynamism, ie, how quickly a nation’s technology focus is progressing. Some countries with similar per-person incomes are moving much more dramatically upward than others in their technology adoption, and we think these are the countries that will progress socioeconomically more quickly over time.

It seems a logical next step to state that the development of employment in the Q sectors will quicken progress for countries at all level of development.

It's hard to get good, consistent data for these categories, so we can't create a Q-sector development ranking just yet. However, we can set goals for each nation and outline steps to reach those goals. By using our current data about the relative level of a nation's IT activity,we can set specific, nation-by-nation goals for the ideal number of software developers and traditional IT jobs, as well as the smaller number of top-end quinary-sector jobs. We can also measure their progress, and follow any correlation between such progress and socioeconomic development.

We can also integrate our existing formulas relating to relative technological progress with available data about percentages of national economies throughout the three traditional sectors. In doing so, we can see which nations are relatively primed for Q-sector development.

The numbers won't lie, but politicians do, so there is always an assumed challenge in getting countries with malignant governments and/or toxic political environments to reach their potential. If only we had all the world's leaders on speed dial or at least had them as 1st-degree LinkedIn connections.

Some Preliminary Leaders
Our preliminary calculations make a strong case for Hungary as the leader among all nations for quick Q-sector development and progress. Others that zoom into focus include Slovakia, Bangladesh, Trinidad & Tobago, and Mauritius.

India jumps off the page among large nations. This may seem to be no surprise, but is a bit of one to us, as India has not scored well in our traditional rankings over the years despite its well-known technology reputation.

Greece also looks good, if it can get out of its own way and focus on its strengths. Jordan looks strong relative to the Middle East, as it does in our traditional rankings. We have much more work to do before issuing formal rankings. 

Taking this approach, we know that there should be a relatively higher number of Q-sector jobs in Germany than in Thailand, but we can watch to see which developing nations are progressing most quickly as well as how developed nations are progressing compared to their economic peers.

The End Game
The end game, which may take a century to reach or may never be reached, is a world that is in better socioeconomic balance, ie a world that has smaller disparities among nations, less violence, and no impoverished people period.

We know it can be daunting to try to achieve progress in developing nations that often lack good basic infrastructure (eg roads, utilities, ports), stable governance, or a reasonable income disparity. That's the nature of the challenge.

The reward can be seen the faces of people whose lives have been improved, in statistics that show progress, and in the knowledge that global trade and economic development does not have to be a zero-sum game and a more prosperous world will be a less chaotic and violent world.

So let's forget about transforming the world into a giant “Uber of this” and “AirBNB of that” dystopia. Let's focus on the Q sectors and make some good stuff happen.

 


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