Opinion

Thought for the day:Is anybody working?

Hard-hitting IT columnist Simon Moores gives his personal take on the hot issue of the day.I counted six men standing by the police car on the hard shoulder. Whether there were any more unexpected passengers inside the French truck I couldn't tell, as my Harley Davidson, with noisy indifference, thundered past the little group on the way down to my home in North Kent.

Four hundred yards from my window overlooking the sea there's a long patch of rough grass under the cliff. At the moment, living in three cheap bell tents, surrounded by cardboard boxes, there's a family with two children.

Whether they know about the £3bn that the Chancellor is making available for government IT projects is irrelevant because I would guess that they lie as far as it's possible to go on the wrong side of the Digital Divide without actually falling into the sea in front of their pathetic home.

Last Friday, one of our readers telephoned me to ask if I might be hiring IT people. "Sorry," I said, "I can't think of anyone who is at the moment, quite the opposite in fact."

"Well, I survived the recession of 1991 and, with luck, I'll survive this one," he replied. "But it's strange that it seems to be kept so quiet, the recession, that is."

So what's my point? The men in the back of that truck want work and I'm sure that the father of the two small children on the seafront does as well. And our reader? Well he's had work, lost work and is looking for it again.

If you listen to the Government, then IT skills are the way to guarantee your future. Certainly, we all need to know how to use a PC and the Internet and VCR and the Sky remote but those aren't true IT skills. Even if you have "real" technology skills, finding and keeping a job isn't as easy as it was ten years ago.

What would the result be, I wonder, when that £3bn has been spent and perhaps another £3bn is granted on top before the next election - public sector projects invariably overrun? We will have built our IT equivalent of the Dome, but what then?

As a nation - and I don't just mean Greater London - will we suddenly become a knowledge economy where the trains run on time? When the efficiencies promised by Oracle, or Microsoft, or Sun finally transform the public sector, where will all the people go and where will all the jobs be? In IT? Somehow I don't think so.

From where I sit, as cynical as you might expect, I see an IT sector that is thinning out dramatically and a manufacturing sector that's dying on its feet.

Somewhere in between lies the grand promise of a future place in the evolving knowledge economy and throwing money at huge public sector IT projects is supposed to jump-start the process.

But like the child in the fairytale of The King's New Clothes, I have an awkward question. Has anyone given any sensible thought to what happens if, like the Dome, the great plan swallows the money and the result is an expensive disappointment?

And what is a job in the Knowledge Economy anyway, and how well does it translate into Albanian?

What do you think?
Can IT revive job prospects? Let us know with an e-mail >> CW360.com reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the Web site. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Zentelligence Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of the futurist writer, broadcaster and Computer Weekly columnist Simon Moores.

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This was first published in August 2002

 

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