Intellectual Property Workers: The Impact on Network Operators

Intellectual Property Workers: The Impact on Network Operators

Stratecast published a SPIE at the end of 2013 that explored the future of work in the 21st Century.2 The response from our readership was supportive and led to a continuing discussion, both with clients as well as the media, over what professional work would look like as the 21st Century progresses into the second decade. Operators were particularly interested in how the evolution of work would translate into demand for advanced telecommunication capabilities in the consumer space, while the media was interested in the impact of this work evolution on the workforce, generally. Both groups shared the concern that, as work increasingly emphasized the creation of intellectual property (good ideas), a significant percentage of the existing workforce would be marginalized or even be rendered unemployable.

Stratecast initially maintained the position that a focus on intellectual property (IP) would no more marginalize the workforce than a focus on information technology (IT) marginalized the workforce in the era. Not everyone writes code, but code writers require all of the support services and infrastructure that any employee would. People need groceries and dry cleaning, after all.

Now, however, indications are surfacing that may indicate some cause for concern: there may be some fundamental reasons why a switch to IP production will actually render rather large sections of the population under-employed or possibly even unemployed; at least in a white collar sense. In fact, there is good reason to suppose that employment dynamics being experienced in the United States economy presage a shift to a global technocracy; one characterized by high income earners, increasingly focused on IP, and a vast pool of part time and casual workers who have no part in actual IP creation.

Such a dynamic, of course, has profound implications for any service-based sector of the economy. For example, if household incomes are constrained by limited upward employment opportunities, then consumer service pricing becomes a fundamental factor impacting service adoption. Service pricing that is too high can retard market growth, while lower pricing may not be sustainable due to service development and delivery costs. If this bifurcated workforce—high income IP-creators versus lower income workers with little to no contribution to IP creation—unfolds, a larger portion of households would be unable to afford premium-priced communication services: ultimately leading to reduced revenue opportunities for operators and other service providers.

This SPIE reexamines the dynamics of 21st Century work, then looks at employment data coming out of the United States economy in order to gauge if an increasing focus on IP production is actually beginning to sort the workforce for technical acuity. This SPIE will be of interest to operators and public policy makers.

  • Introduction1
  • Work in the 21st Century
  • United States Employment Growth
  • Implications for Operators
  • The Last Word

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