The future of work is here — and if you think entrepreneurs are idly standing by to see what hits them, you’d be mistaken. A few months ago we put a question out to the world: “How can those most affected by the tech-driven transformations of work create productive and prosperous livelihoods for themselves?” Three-hundred-and-thirty teams who are building solutions to this challenge answered our call.
So, how are innovators around the world responding to the changing nature of work? Here are some highlights and trends from applications representing 72 countries around the world:
1. Stepping in where the formal education system is lagging
Gone are the days when quality education guaranteed a climb up the socioeconomic ladder. Previous shifts in how we work led to increased investment in years of education required to have a successful career. This time around, lifelong training will be more relevant to today’s successful worker. Tellingly, 44 percent of working-age Europeans don’t have basic digital skills. In the Middle East, only 38 percent of youth believe their education gives them the skills they need to work. The education system is lagging to adapt to the work of the future.
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Solutions that get job applicants closer to gainful employment are paramount. Over 30 percent of the “work of the future” solutions that Solve received aim to teach skills for the digital age. Solutions that stood out enable users to build tech without requiring coding knowledge — Retrofactored.ai and Bubble are just two examples. Rather than upskilling people, making tech easier to use is a consistently effective way to truly unleash a technology and its applications. It took Wordpress to transform blogging, and Twitter to do the same for reporting and sharing news. If we could all build apps and platforms, what will we revolutionize next?
2. Copy, paste, job match!
Connecting job-seekers with available positions that match their skills and talents is the other big hurdle. Forty-six percent of employers in the U.S. face talent shortages and have issues filling open positions with the right candidate. Employers globally report struggling with the same issue.
The use of artificial intelligence to power human resources management, job matching, and career coaching platforms abound, with 24 percent of our submissions falling into this category. OKCupid and Match.com: Your platonic professional counterpart is in the making.
Some startups are honing in on the efficiency aspect, promising ever higher speed to fill vacancies, such as Apli. Others take a more personalized approach, acting like a virtual career coach, such as Knack. And lots are cleverly copying platforms that have proven effective, adapting them to the needs and specificities of their local markets. “Etsy with mentorship,” “the LinkedIn for the LinkedOut,” and “TaskRabbit for Africa,” are some of the taglines that come to mind.
3. The “no-collar” economy is organizing
Speaking of digital platforms, their development is creating a web of large-scale, efficient marketplaces that facilitate direct and timely connections between the customers who need a service and the workers willing to provide it. Call it “the on-demand economy” or the “gig economy,” the no-collar workers’ ranks are growing rapidly.
And with this growth, come three types of efforts, with 15 percent of submitted solutions hitting one of those categories:
• Formalize previously informal work — such as Lynk, which connects informal workers to employers in Africa.
• Organize and inform workers, such as Contratados for migrant workers in the U.S.
• Offer portable benefits, such as insurance and the ability to shop for social services for those not covered by their corporate employer, such as Vincle.
For the freedom that comes with being an independent worker to be accompanied with stability and security, those innovations couldn’t come sooner.
4. Agritech has only started transforming the lives of farmers
Over a billion people still work in the agriculture sector today. This is particularly true in South and East Asia, and Africa. Tech can transform this sector by improving crucial pre- and post-harvest work — and 10 percent of our submissions addressed one of those aspects:
• Increase access to inputs and capital, including microlending, such as Agromarketplace.
• Improve productivity and increase output through precision farming and related technologies, such as Ricult.
• Access to markets by aligning the incentives of the middlemen, such as Trutrade’s model.
• Ensure information about markets and pricing is at farmers’ fingertips, such as GreenFingers Mobile.
The future may be uncertain, but it certainly looks bright with all these work-of-the-future startups testing the grounds and gearing up for scale.
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