The world of the future: Possible digital impact

Nicolas Bürer, Managing Director at digitalswitzerland


The world we live in is rapidly changing due to digitalisation. This has only become more apparent with the ongoing impact of the maturing Covid-19 crisis. A 2020 McKinsey report found that the global pandemic has accelerated the digitisation of customer interactions by several years. Covid-19 touched every area of our lives, not just our use of digital tools and shopping habits, but how we interact, how we connect on a human level, and the expectations we have of digital technology today.


We have experienced years of change in an extremely short time period and every individual and nation is attempting to adapt and recognise how an interconnected digital infrastructure will impact our future. To give context to how ingrained digital technologies are in our daily lives, by 2025, it’s estimated there will be 200 zettabytes of data, > 50 billion devices and trillions of sensors connected. But with increased connection comes both increased opportunities and risks. The digital realm has firmly stepped into centre stage, with four areas playing an important role for our digital future.


Cyberattack is the new global threat

With the adoption of remote working, Internet of Things (IoT) devices and connected supply chains and infrastructure, the cyber attack surface is increasing and has become all the more crippling to both individuals and organisations. Criminal hacker groups are sophisticated in their phishing exploits with use of machine learning and coordinated sharing on the dark web. Ransomware gangs collected almost $350 million last year, up threefold from 2019. Threats against critical infrastructure are increasing and pose risks for both public and private sectors. Online tools such as the Cybersecurity Quick Check for SMEs help to promote the implementation of appropriate security standards and tools. CyberSeal also provides a remedy: it recognizes IT service providers who guarantee their customers an appropriate level of protection.


Transparency & trust will be key

Artificial intelligence opens the doors of opportunity for automation and streamlining processes. However it does raise questions around trust and regulation. The scandals that big tech players have faced in recent years have served to erode trust. The proliferation of fake news and medical misinformation related to Covid-19 can be considered an "infodemic" on the rise. Content creators, technology, legislators as well as consumers all have a role to play. To further complicate the issue, algorithms are often kept secret. This is where transparency is integral to a fair and equal digital future. Robust legal frameworks, accountability and cooperation amongst digital leaders hold the key to endless scope for digital improvement and growth.


A modern digital infrastructure is fundamental for prosperity

Digital infrastructure sets a growth trajectory for nations. What the rail, road, electricity and telecom networks have brought to the development of Switzerland in the industrial age, digital infrastructure will bring to the digital age. The digital economy is growing at more than 10% a year, significantly faster than the economy as a whole. It also directly influences the performance and competitiveness of Switzerland in an increasingly digital world.


There are notable efforts to enhance the Swiss digital infrastructure. Germany recently launched the IDUnion consortium project, an open ecosystem for trusted identities. This should serve as a model for Switzerland. The latest developments regarding the Swiss E-ID must also be supported and driven forward. This applies to enabling data collaboration through the open, transparent and secure digital ecosystem as proposed by GAIA-X standards. Lastly, we must ensure digital trust via the label of the Swiss Digital Initiative that designates the trustworthiness of a digital application.


The power of transversal collaboration

Digitalisation continues to strengthen the opportunities for colleagues, organisations and stakeholders to collaborate. Problems can now be solved in real time.


Ecosystems are very important for the implementation of a company’s growth strategies according to a Deloitte Ecosystems Survey. These three initiatives in Switzerland are thriving examples of transversal collaboration. True transversal collaboration is the key to survival and differentiation. The Swiss Datacenter Efficiency Association fights against the climate impact of data centers by implementing a label to certify green data centers. Facing the challenge of autonomous business head-on, the #SwissAutonomomous Valley is the leading space for accelerated autonomous business. It brings experts and visionary entrepreneurs together to create a one of a kind ecosystem to accelerate the development of autonomous systems. While the 4T-DLT Initiative develops a standardised DLT infrastructure to position Switzerland as a global leading innovation hub for DLT- and fintech projects.


Embracing a new world of work as 20% of jobs will soon be replaced

Digitalisation is a catalyst for change and there is no doubt that it has transformed the face of employment and working lives. Added to this, 80% of Swiss employees in a recent survey prefer to work in a hybrid and flexible way. The time of five days spent in the office is behind us and the global pandemic has reinforced this style of working as the new normal. In order for companies and individuals to thrive, flexibility must be assumed as a given. When it comes to shifts in the job market, they are here to stay with 20% of roles disappearing. Over the long term, the number of jobs gained through digitisation will be roughly equivalent to those displaced. When we take a closer look at this displacement, we can attribute 1 million - 1.2 million to automation and digitisation. And when it comes to new job equivalents created, the figure stands at 0.8 - 1.3 million. This gives a status quo for 2020 - 2021 of about 4.9 million.


There is no doubt that Switzerland is a key talent hub. Switzerland scores top marks in the categories of vocational training, education system, higher education as well as the retention of human capital and quality of life. In the Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2020 rankings by Insead, Switzerland ranked number one. The IMD World Talent Ranking 2020 also lists Switzerland in first place.


Embracing the power of Lifelong learning

To quote Albert Einstein, “Once you stop learning, you start dying” and this is something that we hold closely in our work at digitalswitzerland. The secret to continual success and growth is to embrace the changes and challenges that digitalisation and the future of work brings. What is incredible to envision is that 65% of elementary school children today will do jobs that haven‘t been invented yet. How do we prepare the next generation to adapt and thrive in a world we can’t even imagine yet? One way is continuous education for all ages and a commitment to upskilling and reskilling.


A direct result of digitalisation is that the labour market is using increasing amounts of IT and therefore IT skills are required. A shortage of 35,800 ICT specialists is forecast in Switzerland by 2028. Companies and policymakers must take steps to counter this skill gap. We need to create a society where access to STEM subjects, coding and programming, and areas with skills shortages are targeted from children to retirement age.


Outlook


Despite threats mentioned like cyber attacks, artificial intelligence, fake news and macroeconomic impact, there is a positive outlook for the coming years thanks to digital innovation.

Businesses and governments are working to address the changes, while the European Union is working on macroeconomic issues. Consideration on digital education and how digital trust and governance can be established further are equally high priorities for many countries. All of this requires an open mindset. This means the most useful digital technologies will remain, while others will vanish. We must not forget that digital transformation is not the end purpose. It enables the journey to a more prosperous society and economy, a better environment and this is why we need to embrace all it has to offer.


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