“Tech Companies Should Stop Pretending AI Won’t Destroy Jobs.” “The Tech Solutions to End Global Hunger.” Depending on which headline you read, you can get a very different idea of how technology is going to affect our future. It’s enough to make your head spin. Neither extreme scenario rings true based on historical evidence or my own experience in business and global philanthropy.
When spreadsheet software was introduced in 1980, pundits predicted heavy losses for the accounting sector. And, in a way, they were right: Since then, the United States has lost 400,000 accounting jobs. What they didn’t predict, though, was that spreadsheets would also create customer service jobs
Or take a more immediate example: our phones. They provide us almost instant access to more or less the entirety of human knowledge, but a lot of us are addicted to them in ways that make us more anxious and less empathetic.
That’s exactly why the Pathways for Prosperity Commission on Technology and Inclusive Development exists. The commission— which I co-chair with Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Indonesia’s minister of finance, and Strive Masiyiwa, the founder of Econet Wireless — works to help business and government leaders in low-income countries make sure new tech is used for good, and especially for the good of the people who need it most.
Two recent reports by the commission make me optimistic. Their most important finding is that technological innovation is creating opportunities not just for poor people to become more prosperous, but for poor countries to grow their economies in entirely new ways. Entrepreneurs and policymakers in those countries need to understand those opportunities so they can seize them.
Conventional wisdom used to hold that there were two primary roads to prosperity for poor countries: manufacturing and natural resources. But the commission has identified several brand-new pathways for the modern era. For example, with the right support, subsistence farmers can use digital technology to build small- and medium-sized agribusinesses that drive GDP growth (not to mention improve nutrition). Similarly, by connecting entrepreneurs to business and government systems, technology is linking more people to the formal economy, thereby increasing their access to opportunities, social protections and other benefits — while also enabling governments to tax them to support important services like education and health.
Read more of Melinda Gates’ article at CNN Business