The Information Highway
Micro-electronics is changing the world at a blinding speed as the 'third industrial revolution' replaces brain power with machine power. Communications technologies, driven by high-speed micro-processors, fibre-optics and satellite systems have changed profoundly the amount and speed at which information can be stored, transmitted and exchanged.
A study in May 1996 by the Georgia Institute of Technology confirmed that most net users are affluent North American males looking for entertainment.10 study in May 1996 by the Georgia Institute of Technology confirmed that most net users are affluent North American males looking for entertainment.10
- 69% were male, average age 33 with an average household income of $59,000.
- 80% used the web daily mostly for browsing and entertainment.
- 51% reported using the web for work and 14% for shopping.
- 36% of users surf the web instead of watching TV.
- 84% of users were from North America and Northern Europe.
There is a huge gap in telecommunicationsinfrastructure between rich and poor worlds and the technologies that complement computernetworks are also unevenly distributed.
At least 80% of the world's population still lacks the most basic communications technologies. Nearly 50 countries have fewer than one telephone line per 100 people. There are more telephone lines in Manhattan than in all of sub-Saharan Africa.1
Cashing in the chips
Miniature electronic circuits called micro-processors or semiconductors provide computers with their prodigious memories but they are also at eh heart of a huge variety of consumer goods, from microwave ovens to hand-held computer games. The worldwide sale of comkputer chips was more than $150 bilion in 1995, three times what it was a decade earlier. The industsry is controlled by a small number of corporations.
It's impossible to correlate job losses directly to workplace computerization. Unemployment due to automation usually falls under the categories of 're-structuring' or 're-engineering'. Nonetheless:
Most new jobs are in the service sector: low-skilled, low-paid, part-time and insecure. Nearly a fifth of all new employment in the US is temporary and the country?s largest employer is now Manpower Inc., a temporary-help agency that employs twice as many people as General Motors.6
The International Metalworkers Federation in Geneva predicts that by 2025 as little as 2% of the current global labour force will be needed to produce all the goods necessary for total consumption.7
From 1983-93 banks in the US replaced 37% of their workforce with automated banking machines (ATMs). Another 30-40% of jobs in banking and finance may be eliminated by the year 2001.7
Corporations are now in the process of automating Third World factories as even 'cheap labour' proves too dear. Chinese plans to restructure and introduce computerized production could throw as many as 30 million people out of work.8
The number of Internet users may be as high as 50 million and there are an estimated 10,000 new computer hosts (computers through which users connect to the network) added daily.
However, over 90% of Internet hosts are in North America and Western Europe and access by poor countries to global high-tech communications is severely limited.
Growth in Internet hosts (Jan 1990 - Aug 1996)
Top ten computer chip makers (Revenue in $ billions and % market share, 1995
Intel (US) - $13.83 (8.9%)
NEC (Japan) - $11.36 (7.3%)
Toshiba (Japan) - $10.19 (6.6%)
Hitachi (Japan) - $9.42 (6.1%)
Motorola (US) - $9.17 (5.9%)
Samsung (Korea) - $8.34 (5.4%)
Texas Instruments (US) - $8.00 (5.2%)
Fujitsu (Japan) - $5.51 (3.6%)
Mitsubishi (Japan) - $5.15 (3.3%)
Philips (UK/Neth) - $4.04 (2.6%)
1 The Internet and the South: superhighway or dirt-track, Panos Briefing Document No 16, October 1995, Panos, London, UK. 2 World Telecommunications Development Report, International Telecommunications Union, 1995, Geneva, Switzerland. 3 World Economic Forum, 1995.
4 General Magic, Aug 96, Web site: www.genmagic.com 5 Network Wizards, Jan 96, Web site: www.nw.com 6 Stand up for good jobs, AFL-CIO, June 1996. Web site: www.aflcio.org 7 The End of Work, Jeremy Rifkin, Putnam Publishers, New York, 1995 8 Wall Street Journal, 16 Feb 1994, p A13 9 The Economist, 23 March 1996, p20 10 Georgia Tech Graphics Visualization and Usability Centre, 5th WWW User Survey, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 1996. Web site: www.cc.gatech.edu/gvu
©Copyright: New Internationalist 1996
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