Online transactions threaten jobs?

Experts believe that the inception of online banking and other new internet innovations are slowly but surely pushing people out of employment.

The internet was not only meant to ease research and the gathering of information but it was also intended to be the most popular medium of instant connection with the world just at the click of a button.

Since the American computer science professor, Leonard Kleinrock, sent the very first electronic message (e-mail) in 1950, the future of banking and marketing has stream-rolled onto the internet.

Thus, making a transaction has become a whole lot simpler than standing in queues at the bank or walking in the scorching sun, selling products. Hence, online banking.

Online banking provides advantages for banks as well as their customers. Banks can now sharply reduce their consumption costs in terms of time and the required personnel to fulfill customer service tasks.

Customers rest assured that they have a 24/7 access to their account information whether they are in the office, at home or enjoying watching the sea waves at a beach. This is because banks now maximise their potential to introduce and market new products via online banking.

Sales and business development director, Bizmonster Namibia (an online marketing and research company)’s Athena Cavadias explains: “The future of social media offers many exciting, new opportunities for businesses to interact with their customers.”

Going forward, she says, it is paramount to integrate social media into one’s overall customer service experience.

“When your business is focused on creating positive brand experiences, it can lead to insights that have an impact on all of your customers. Most importantly, it builds trust,” she emphasises.

Cavadias also says: “By creating positive user-friendly brands, your customers will see that you have their best interests at heart and that would be added value for your business. You can achieve this by engaging with them. People will then start talking about your brand right away. It’s the way the world communicates at the moment.”

Being an online marketing entity, Bizmonster Namibia has become a common base for Namibians who prefer quality simplicity with regard to business transactions.

With simplicity, Cavadias fears, there is always a hoary element of debunking while for online banking and marketing, that debunking often means eliminating jobs.

The online technology revolution is fast replacing human beings with software. Already, some workers have been permanently eliminated from the economic process. Whole work categories and job assignments have shrunk, been restructured, or disappeared.

“Namibians are hot on the heels of the rest of the world by embracing social media platforms and transacting online. Publications such as Prime Focus magazine play a vital role in providing knowledge and instilling confidence into this young but growing market,” she says.

According to Cavadias, most local companies are eager to embrace social media marketing when they know and understand its effectiveness. Our social media workshops in the country are sell-outs because businesses of all sizes wish to know more and participate.

“Knowledge is power and safety is key. Like everything, once you know how to do something and take the necessary precautions, you’ll never look back,” she adds.

A local online banking expert, Germaine Smit, however believes that the current unemployment rates are likely to rise as more technological innovations come to board.

“As more people turn to the internet for financial services, more banks are incorporating online applications. Site visitors can now apply for everything; from a cheque or savings account to opening a small business account or applying for a home loan,” Smit says.

The online application capability, as Smit puts it, saves time for customers and saves money for banks: “Data application allows banks to track and monitor interest levels for banking and financial service products and follow up with applicants to increase account entries.”

According to Smit, this is the reason why more average Namibian adults are now either unemployed or underemployed. The figures are likely to rise sharply between now and the turn of the century as millions of new entrants into the workforce find themselves without jobs, the online banking expert explains.

Research reveals that not only banks are being affected by the technology euphoria but even developing nations that face increasing technological unemployment. This happens while transnational companies build state-of-the-art high-tech production facilities, as they let go of millions of cheap labourers who can no longer compete with the cost efficiency, quality control and speed of delivery achieved by automated manufacturing.

With regard to that, University of Namibia (Unam) information technology (IT) senior student, Jeffrey Malone states; “Technology has ended jobs as we know them. What is now needed is technology or combined technology that would create jobs. I have developed a plan that will do just that; create jobs. The plan will not only produce jobs for people in their local communities but will also create jobs for everyone in the available workforce of the entire world.”

Malone explains: “Technology has always disrupted industries and created new opportunities. The trouble is, the pace with which technology advances always accelerates and it’s got to the point where society cannot keep up.”

The answer, according to Malone, lies in social innovation. “For starters, we need to re-invent our educational system to deal with the reality of the situation. A majority of people in developing countries cannot keep up with the disruptive changes innovation brings about. This is going to lead to major dislocations and upheaval.”

He adds, “Sure, innovation has benefited IT experts, locally and internationally. Although it has seen a difference in their lifestyle, it has created a gulf amongst those who only chase after its tail. An example of this scenario is India, which needs to create 12 million jobs a year and yet its IT sector can only generate one to two million.”

Perhaps the future of making our transactions has become more complex, though less straining, but what will that do to job opportunities in two decades?

Even the American president, Barack Obama, is on record as saying: “There are some structural issues with our economy where a lot of businesses have learnt to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers. You see it when you go to a bank and you use an ATM, you don’t go to a bank teller, or you go to the airport and you’re using a kiosk instead of checking in at the gate.”

Given all the benefits of living in a connected world, there is still one huge disconnection: The global economy seems to be growing but it does not create jobs. This disconnection is not a temporary blip that will disappear with a full economic recovery. It is part of a longer-term structural change in the economy and with it comes technological advancements. PF