The Transition from an Industrial to an Information Society.
Forecasts for the Information Society up to 2021.
NB : To avoid qualifying each and every forecast, they are here cited as if the changes and the years are certainties. However, the dates when changes may occur, particularly the major changes, could be many years adrift.
From 2000 to 2021
the rapid growth of telework in
for the commercial and tax implications of trans-border transactions; for local, regional and international financial systems; for employment, unemployment and pay-rates around the world; for national taxes, tax havens and money laundering; and, not least, for the compatibility and interoperability of computer and telephony systems.
Through the two
decades from 1988-2008,
Hampered by an
inefficient and perhaps dishonest banking system, electronic transactions
remain very difficult to complete in
But once a modern
computer-telephony system is created, reliable and inexpensive electronic banks
will be able to handle the ordinary citizens' transactions securely and, with
the advantage of the latest technologies,
telecommuting, started some 40 years ago in about 1980 when Jack Nilles at the
state traffic authority in
My own early work, The Economics of Teleworking 1992, identified the most powerful economic rationale, namely that every hour per work day saved from non-productive activities, such as commuting, was equivalent to 30, eight-hour work days a year. Typically a teleworker converting from full time commuting to full time at home gives an extra 30 work-days to their employer and gains 40 work-days extra leisure and family time. This is the logic for the "effortless increase in productivity" experienced by most teleworkers. By reducing their work-related-costs, for example commuting, child minding, formal clothing etc, a teleworker could save up to one-sixth of their gross annual pay. The economic equation for employers and employers was very positive. But the costs of organisational change and the habits of long term commuters put a strong brake on any headlong rush into telework.
In 1990, both in the
EU and the
The Mayor of Berlin welcomed the technology enabled trend towards flexible and tele-working but she expressed concern for the impact on home and family life if people stopped going out to work. The UK’s Baroness Seaar summing up the conference, echoed the Mayor's concerns saying that in her youth, when men went out to work and women stayed at home, ladies were very clear about family and work boundaries, vowing that "we may marry them for Better or for Worse ------ but not for Lunch".
Marital psychotherapist Pauline Hodson published and delivered her paper "Bringing Home the Electronic Baby" in 1996, citing the cases and difficulties of husbands and wives who as telework pioneers, switched from daily commuting to working at home. In the future it is likely that alongside New-Man and his spouse new societal protocols will evolve and emerge to resolve the difficult emotional, spatial and territorial issues that arise when the home doubles as a micro–office. The new protocols will bring a new, enlightened understanding on working at home to employers, employees and to families. Numbers of sociological studies are being undertaken on this subject, accompanied by analyses and forecasts on travel patterns.
Many traditional employers continue to resist any changes to the status quo. Particularly if the proposed changes threaten their use of the motor car. In 1993, the Chief Executive Officer of a traditional two-hundred man UK consultant engineering firm, when asked to reconsider the role of the company car as part of the salary package, instinctively and unconsciously grabbed the startled telework adviser by his tie and tried to throttle him.
But the engineer’s resistance was swept aside, as he had fully recognised would and must happen, by young, computer literate engineers, organised on telework principles, working mostly at home, without office overheads, company cars and other fixed costs who undercut the market prices by up to 50%. Change will be either voluntary or forced upon companies by competition, but changes in work practices will increase exponentially as the power and reliability of mass communications improves. The “Work will be taken to the People” and the daily commute will rapidly become obsolete. This implies significant value and price changes for travel related activities and for commercial and domestic buildings.
The company car
remains as the prime status symbol of workplace hierarchy. In
It may take one or more severe gridlocks and great improvements in virtual presence, video conferencing and the user friendliness of PC’s to finally topple the company car; but all of these are forecast and seem to be inevitable. Just when the log-jamb will break is an open question that revolves around the growing inconvenience of maintaining and parking a car balanced against the convenience and self-expression inherent in owning one.
The growth in traffic
is so ubiquitous that no statistics need to be published here to convince any
road user that gridlock is around the next corner. Out of eight
The most likely
Workplace Status will by 2015 be indicated by the personal and home-office equipment provided by the company, and by the virtual presence access levels permitted at the Cyberspace-Office-Head-Quarters.
The technologies for these virtual electronic headquarters are being created today. Requiring no startling breakthrough in techniques or products, but with far faster and broader band widths, Cyberspace Headquarters will be established for all the top multi-national companies. They will be “open” 24 of 7, as Americans put it – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Employees will be able to attend via sophisticated teleconferencing and be able to reproduce most of the encounters and transactions that take place in a large central office. The technology will enable people to see their colleagues and enable themselves to “be seen” to be at work. It takes little imagination and no startling technology breakthroughs to envisage being able to knock on a virtual office door in a virtual corridor and hear your colleague call “come in” before you “enter” their space for a conversation. The core of a Cyberspace-HQ will be the permanent secretaries who will best know how the systems work and can guide less adept colleagues through the electronic environment.
Such virtual presence offices will become possible by 2015 and fully operative by 2021. The current vogue for the most senior people to delegate their technology understanding and tools will evaporate as the user-friendliness increases to the same level as using a button-free circular dial 1980’s telephone.
The family problems and resistance from traditional managers will be eventually overcome and the telework population will grow rapidly as computer-telephony continues to halve in price and double in power every two years.
By December 1999, at
the turn of the Millennium, there were over 15 million
These numbers were
tangentially confirmed in a 1999 survey by NOKIA, the
largest mobile phone maker, that showed: - on
Subscriptions - Finland 62%; Norway 52% - Sweden 49% - Iceland 42% - Denmark
41% - Italy 39% - Portugal 36% - Luxembourg 35% - Austria 31% - Switzerland 27%
- Ireland 26% - Netherlands 26% - Greece 24% - France 21% - Spain 21% - Belgium
21% - Germany 19%. Numbers of mobile
phone subscribers have been growing at 70% per annum. Here may lie the seeds
for the modernisation, skipping the wired stage, of
The most reliable telework statistics for 1998 were gathered by the European Commission project DIPLOMAT, the European Charter for Telework. The picture was as below:-
What the 1999 figures reveal is a large difference between the national statistics for teleworkers and the industry statistics for mobile phones. Given that the majority of mobile phones were in 1999 then owned by people who had jobs, even allowing for the fashion for children and vulnerable older people to be given a mobile phone, it would seem that the extraordinary increase in workplace communications mobility compared to the 1970’s and 80’s was not and is not being regarded by statisticians as "location free, advanced communications enabled working" - one of the definitions of teleworking in current use. This difference is not surprising as the rate of change is so fast that no institutions and very few individual observers are able to keep pace with it.
As German teleworkers were recorded at only 200,000 people - just 2.1% of the workforce - and as having 19% of subscribers (homes) owning a mobile phone, Deutsche Telecom led Europe by publishing, in January 1999, a telework agreement for their 210,000 employees, endorsed by the employers, employees and trade unions, and paving the way for a large surge in numbers of teleworkers.
As "working where you live - and living where you work" becomes possible and fashionable, all jobs that can be made location free will be freed from fixed, central offices. The economics demand this change and, as has been said earlier, the change will either be voluntary or forced – by the competition – but change it must.
shift in travel will see more vehicles used for leisure rather than for
commuting to work. But as commuting is reduced and as business travel becomes
less glamorous and therefore also reduced, cars will be kept for longer,
changed less often and become less of a
status symbol. A
By 2015 most jobs that can be teleworked will be converted, and the daily commute will be a distant memory. About 60% of the 165 million EU workforce will work via computer-telephony in 2015. As traditional heavy industry, agriculture and manual work becomes increasingly automated, the number of jobs in those sectors will further decline. The other 40% of the workforce will work in the service-sector; for example dealing face to face with customers, such as in Hotels, Cafes, Theatres, Sports, Health Care, the few remaining Retail Shops, Face-to-Face Training and in Laboratory Teams. Politicians may still physically gather in parliaments in 2015, but communications technology will become so user friendly and secure that even the most Machiavellian politicians will use it in preference to actual physical secret meetings in the corridors of power.
we are experiencing is not and will not be without pain and crises. The signals
were very clear in all OECD countries as long ago as 1990 that computers and
automation would decimate jobs in banking, financial services and in heavy
manufacturing – even in agriculture. The
As soon as powerful personal computers enable every citizen, 90% of whom are innumerate, to count and to follow economic models, global transactions and added-value chains, the mysteries that surround profit and money will evaporate.
Century technology at everyone's fingertips, the general population will demand
accurate 21st Century information about the economic systems that
govern their lives. As President George Bush told
Just as tourism has brought prices in most developed countries in line and you can no longer live like a King on $20 a month in some hidden away Shangri-La, as you might have done in the 1950’s, so the transformation of the global economy made possible by advanced communications systems is and will continue to create wealth in all communities, wherever they are located. There is no hiding place from the Information Society. Deliberately created and preserved Communication Free Zones or CFZ’s, where mobile phones, laptops, Email, radios, TV’s and all other electronic devices are banned, will proliferate and increase in value as people seek havens of peace away from the ceaseless, restless traffic of mass communications. Who wants to trek two hundred miles through the trackless wilderness, to round a corner and overhear a mobile phone conversation reminding you that you haven’t paid your fuel bill and that you are expected back at work in three days – Stop the World! I Want to Get Off CFZ theme parks will be successful.
What has recently
become a global cartel, the financial services industry, employing over two
million people in the
Employed teleworkers, already freed from fixed offices, will be able to obtain mortgages from their own region to buy a home and insure it, almost anywhere on the planet.
manufacturing is being fully automated alongside financial services, the
resulting unemployed are being and will continue to be encouraged into
self-employed teleworking and into marketing their skills across the world.
Millions of previously employed tax-payers are being thrown into the maelstrom
of self-employment and being furnished with advanced communications technology.
Those who earn good money rapidly discover that a solo-teleworker in, say,
French employers are jumping on the band-wagon to avoid the highest pay-roll taxes in the world. They route their job offers, through cyberspace, to for example Channel Isle companies, formed by solo French teleworkers. Fewer European registered companies make any taxable profits as invoices in foreign languages, in strange currencies, drop out of cyberspace the day before the company year-end, and strip the profits out to some exotic location. Within the next five years an Off-Planet company will be registered on an accommodating orbiting satellites, leaving the tax authorities puzzling over the legal jurisdiction of the transactions that flash at the speed of light through the satellites' broadband channels.
will however retaliate. The OECD in
If a tax collections crisis occurs in all OECD countries one powerful solutions could be the sudden launch of a new global currency, say, the EuroDollarYen (EDY) requiring all citizens to convert their cash and investment balances and at the same time explain their source and tax status. The massive tax collections and money confiscation that would follow would more than compensate for years of poor treasury income. A Global-Fiscal-Responsibilities-Convention can be forecast by 2017 that will finally end cyberspace tax avoidance and money laundering. It will create the fiscal and financial stability for teleworkers to live in any place they would like to live while retaining jobs perhaps hundreds or thousands of miles away. A world currency is inevitable and convergence of the main tax rates will occur. Local variances will proliferate as local authorities compete to attract high earning teleworkers to live, and to pay taxes, in their regions.
Teleworkers need to physically attend central offices less and less often, particularly with the growth of Cyberspace-Head-Quarters, open 24 hours a day and accessible as a virtual person from anywhere. Teleworkers are likely to choose to live in communities of special-interest-groups, based on hobbies, such as mountaineering, or gardening, or ski-ing, or skin-diving, etc. and will buy houses in areas suitable for these hobbies.
Teleworking, as it has from its earliest days, along with computerisation, will help to free mankind from the tyranny of the commute and from the manacles of the production line in factories and offices.
By 2021, most factories will be computer controlled automated facilities, many underground near to raw materials, that are switched on and off in response to just-in-time-stock control instructions, by managers perhaps living hundreds of kilometres from the factories. Citizens could be free to live wherever they like - enjoying the same financial, taxation and social security systems as they would in their countries of origin. Bureaucracy and government, computer assisted, can become infinitely subtle and complex, managing hundreds of devolved European regions, catering for a multitude of local community preferences under the umbrella of necessary global agencies.
The hurdles and barriers to these forecasts are not technological nor are they commercial, the barriers are psychological and fiscal/political. The fiscal system is the last of the societal mechanisms to come in line with the rapid pace of change. The major challenges lie in the fiscal and political changes required to accommodate the irrepressible Information Society revolution.
© Noel Hodson,
Contact – Noel
© NCH Oxford 2003.
Transport Energy 1MB
Darn Cat 1MB
 Jenseits Der Grossen Transformation - Arbeit, Technik und Wissen in der Informationsgellschaft - Josef Hochgerner - Locker Verlag - April 1999, Centre for Social Innovations, Vienna.
International and TAC (teleworking advisory committee),
 Telecommuting Review - monthly magazine 1984 -1999 Editor Mr. Gil Gordon. firstname.lastname@example.org
Economics of Telework - BT Martlesham Laboratories 1992. & Teleworking Explained - WILEY &
 Contact Andrew Page, organiser of the Berlin Conference - by Email: Protocol@ECTF.org.uk
 The Age
of Unreason - Charles Handy - Arrow ISBN 0-09-975740-0 & The Empty Raincoat
- Charles Handy,
Home the Electronic Baby 1994 - Pauline Hodson - SPMP,
 See Telecommute Review, January 1999. www.gilgordon.com
Provided by Walter Paavonen, Paavonnen Consulting AB,
 The Global Trap, ZED Books, by Hans Martin & Harald Schumann - Der Speigel journalists. October 1997.