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Key trends and drivers of change in information and communication technologies and work location

August 2, 2017

As part of our work with the European Agency for Safety and Health at work (EU-OSHA), on their project ‘Foresight on new and emerging occupational safety and health risks associated with information and communication technologies and work location by 2025’. we produced a report on the key trends and drivers in ICT and work location. This report is now available via our website here.

Trends and key drivers of change were identified in a three-stage process: horizon scanning, consultation with experts through phone interviews and a Delphi-like survey and then a mini-workshop. The report lists and describes these important trends and drivers, which are organised by STEEP (Societal, Technological, Economic, Environmental and Political) category.

From demographic changes to technological innovations, these are the factors that will decide what occupational safety and health (OSH) challenges, associated with the digitalisation of work faces Europe in 2025.

Naturally, we found both potential benefits and risks for OSH. The main benefits included:

  • Removing people from hazardous environments through the use of robotics
  • Providing new means of promoting good OSH practice.

Risks were primarily psycho-social, relating to issues arising from work-related stress, 24/7 working practices and the loss of hierarchy and interaction at work, and ergonomic, through the use of mobile devices and novel human-machine interfaces.

Some 17 key drivers and trends were identified.

  1. Virtual and flexible working, including zero-hours contracts and platform working
  2. Changes in supply chains, with more sub-contracting and an increase in e-commerce
  3. The rise of small/micro- businesses, with opportunities for entrepreneurs but also pseudo self-employment
  4. The European Single Market, and the effectiveness of regulation
  5. Challenges of the economic environment – rates of growth, globalisation or its converse, and levels of investment
  6. Gaps in ICT skills and the need for frequent re-training
  7. Attitudes to online privacy, online bullying and ethics
  8. The scope for collective action, perhaps through social media
  9. The economic value of data and the rise of the knowledge economy
  10. Population demographics: the ageing population, migration, generational differences and the proportion of women in the workforce
  11. Built-in OSH, through user-centred design
  12. Robotics, AI and autonomous vehicles
  13. Internet of Things and big data
  14. Cybersecurity
  15. Virtual reality and augmented reality
  16. Growth of communications networks
  17. Man-machine interfaces, including direct computer/brain interfaces.

Later parts of the project convert these drivers into scenarios and then policies are tested against each. Further reports will also become publicly available in due course.

Written by Huw Williams, SAMI Principal.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of SAMI Consulting.

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