Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Modern workforce requirements....at home

There has been a lot of talk about the skills shift in the labour market in Europe and USA. A big part of the simpler jobs are moving to robots, low-cost countries and are being exterminated by more excessive use of materials, standardization, computerization and better processes. There is a very interesting TED talk (Are droids taking our jobs) about how this trend will get more and more powerful.

But have you noticed that the same thing is happening at home? I mean can you even get all the stuff at home working if one of the parents is not a highly educated and experienced technician? For example when I was young the technical problem to solve was sharpening pens. Maybe you needed to sharpen a knife for that, but it was more about hands and less about brains. Now one must struggle with problems like Gmail is not working in a tablet because WiFi gets disconnected. Or reinstalling a telephone, because it cannot connect to the PC maintenance software anymore.
 Try to remember how many things we had 20 years ago at home that ran on batteries. Maybe five? Can you even count how many you have today? I think the battery manufacturers have even changed the packages from a pair of AA batteries to a 16 battery box.
 As I understand from the Christmas campaigns then the next job at home that will be taken over by robots is hoovering. This is of course good and one must embrace technology! Buy a robot, it is really cool and useful! However when doing so you must recognize that instead of 1h of hoovering a week you will be cleaning, maintaining, re-programming or solving technical problems of the robot-vacuum-cleaner for approximately 1h a month. So like always you save time but you must shift the skills to the next level.
 What this also means is that we will face a huge youth-unemployment problem at home as vacuum cleaning is something you can start from the age of 10, but figuring out why the robot is not cleaning is something only a parent with technical education can handle.

But this is not all. Besides technical maintenance and complexity a modern family needs also make sense of all the financial services, insurances, fonds etc. A question like "will I ever get a pension?" is something that you can only answer after thorough economical analysis that do need at minimum an MBA, but more preferably a masters degree of economics.

So happy studying! :-)

Monday, November 19, 2012

What is the problem with open data initiatives?

Many countries, including Sweden and Estonia, have started open data initiatives in the last couple of years. The goal of these initiatives is to open up publicly owned data for enterpreneurs who can develop services on them and well... make money. However, the success of these initiatives has been only moderate until now. I think the highest success has been with services offering public transport route planning and similar, but mostly the services are more or less only interesting toys. So why is the success moderate? I see several reasons for that:
- The data being opened (for free) is usually commercially un-interesting. It is not the citizen or business registrys that you get access to for free.
- Consumers in general are not willing to pay anything for e-services. It is the businesses that make money with e-services and who are also willing to pay for them.
- The institutions themself, like for example Stockholms Lokaltrafik and also Google, provide very good services on the original data and it is virtually impossible to compete with them.

So what to do? How to give life into the overall idea of open data?
 I think the answer is to change the overall notion into providing valuable data, for a fee, to organizations who have legal rights for that. This idea gets also much better if you put it into EU context. I am sure that:

- The Finnish State would be happy to pay much more than the IT integration costs if the Finnish police would get through the X-Road platorm access to the Estonian car registry. And it would also be a win-win situation for the citizens of both countries. (Well if we don't count in Estonian car owners who don't follow parking rules in Finland)

- if you move to another country and want to buy a broadband connection, cable-TV or maybe take a bank-loan then the telco's and banks would be happy to pay for a query to your previous homelands income tax database to check if you are economically viable. You would also be happy to give them that access.

- businesses would be happy to pay for data like addresses, infrastructure maps, people and business data.

So there is lot to win in the open data area. But to make it happen we should focus on more valuable data and the legal and security questions to make it available for the right and only the right parties.