People and IT

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Ever since industrial revolution, people have feared that machinery will replace workers, and Information Technology us no exception. In spite of dire predictions, however, there is no evidence that the introduction of computers has led to mass unemployment – in fact, over computers have created all more jobs than have been replaced by them. Nevertheless, in some areas computers have substantially replaced the workforce. In the 1980s, thousands of factory workers were made redundant by the introduction of robots on the factory floor making everything from biscuits to cars.

In the 1990s, thousands of clerical and white-collar workers saw their Jobs disappear with the introduction of company databases, desktop publishing, computerised accounting systems and increased automation in banks, building societies and organisations of all kinds, large and small. Teleworking involves carrying out work away from the office and communicating with the employer through the use of a computer and telecommunications equipment. Often Tele-workers are based at home, but they can also work from Telecentres, satellite offices or even on the move.

Although a study done in 1995 at Newcastle University found that less than 1 worker out off 100 was a Teleworker (spending at least half of their working week at home using the computer), organisation are becoming increasingly interested in various forms of Teleworking, which are becoming increasingly interested in various forms of Teleworking, which has benefits both for the employer and the employee. According to research done by Henley Business School in 1997, there are already 4 million Teleworkers in the UK. Recently, the relative demand for skilled labour has increased dramatically.

We investigate one of the causes, skill-based technical change. Advances in the Information Technology (IT) are among the most powerful forces bearing on the economy. Employers who use IT often make complementary innovations in their organisations and in the services they offer. Our hypothesis is that these Co-inventions by IT users change the mix of skills that employers demand. Specially, we test the hypothesis that it is a cluster of complementary changes involving IT, workplace organisation and services that is they skilled-based technical change.

We examine new firm-level data linking several indicators of IT use, workplace organisation, and the demand for skilled labour. In both a short run factor demand framework and a production function framework, we find evidence for complementary. It use complementary to a new workplace organisation which includes broader job responsibilities for lineworkers, more decentralised decision-making, and more self-managing teams. In turn, both IT and that new organisation are complements with worker skill, measured in a variety of ways.

Further, the managers in our survey believe that IT increases skill requirements and autonomy among workers in their firms. Taken together, the results highlight the roles of both IT and IT enabled organisational change as important components of the skill-based technical change. Training staff in the use of new technology is crucial to the success of any computer system. Unless staff at all levels of an organisation know how to use the new technology effectively, investment in a computer system can be a waist of money.

When a new software package is introduced into a company, users at different levels of the company may require different levels of training. At the lowest level, for example, a clerical worker may need to know how to load a spreadsheet package, enter the daily or weekly sales figures and print a report. A member of the sales staff in electrical retailers may need to know how to enter customer’s details to check their credit rating and reports, and how to use function keys to activate macros. These activities are taskbased. A middle manager or knowledge worker on the other hand, may need skill-based rather than taskbased knowledge.

A marketing manager who has to give a presentation on the expected sales of a new product may need to use a spread sheet to analyse and graph actual and projected figures and insert the results into a word processed report for the managing director. An office supervisor may design a style for all-international memos and reports, and create a template and macros to automate certain functions, using a word processing package. It is continuing to take over more and more jobs in the workplace, this will lead to an eventual high job loss, so unemployment will be high.

Another fear point that some people fear is that in the future, we will make AI robots and they will overcome us, and then control us because they would be stronger and more intelligent, but this is a bit far fetched. A reliance on technology brings with it unavoidable dangers. Faulty hospital equipment that delivers the wrong dose of radiation, by-by-wire aircraft that develops hardware or software faults and fall out of the sky, software bugs that corrupt data held in massive databases, are just some of the catastrophes that can result from our dependence on technological wonders.

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