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“Intrinsically, technology is neither good nor bad—it is the use to which it is put that makes the difference.” (McKinsey)

An exclusive discussion paper from McKinsey will be published and presented on the main stage the opening day of VivaTechnology.

Drawing on a library of around 600 tech applications, the paper, Tech for Good: Smoothing disruption, improving well-being, examines the potential of the new generation of technology to improve lives by acting on several well-being factors (e.g. job security, education, material living standards, health, environmental sustainability, equal opportunities, etc). It also makes a first attempt to estimate the value of welfare gains to the economy and society beyond GDP. The focus of the research is on Europe and the US. An innovation-driven growth for common good The added “socio-economic” value created by technology in Europe and the US could reach as much as 2% per year by 2030 by doing the sum of GDP growth (+ 1.5 points) and additional wellbeing components (+ 0.5 point). Such a result corresponds to an optimal scenario where, on the one hand, private and public cooperation for accelerating technology-based innovation in all domains and, on the other hand, proactive management smooths transitions related to technology adoption in order to mitigate its negative effects (see Figure). This is as much as double the incremental growth from technology that we have modeled under an average scenario. Other scenarios that pay less heed to managing transitions or boosting innovation could slow income growth, increase unemployment risk, and lead to fewer improvements in leisure, health, and longevity.

In our four scenarios, the focus of technology deployment and the approach to transition management determine the outcomes. Smoothing the technology transition to better outcomes will require concerted actions from governments and companies The report identifies priority areas for public authorities and companies to promote the development of new technologies in all economic and social activities and the anticipated management of negative externalities that it can generate.

Policy makers could focus their actions on four priorities:

1. Improving infrastructure coverage and quality through policies and investment, for example with broadband rollout and public Wi-Fi.

2. Ensuring “Digital Inclusion” by making sure that vulnerable population groups gain access not just to the internet but also to a panoply of digital services. Education is a key enabler for technology adoption and management of transitions.

3. Reducing innovation costs for business and setting the direction of technology development through public spending, procurement and open markets.

4. Proactively managing data usage,through their role as open data regulators.

Companies should:

1. Focusing technology deployment on new products, services, and markets.

2. Augmenting the skills of the workforce including with technological solutions to ensure they are in line with businesses emerging needs linked to the Tech-led society.

3. Increasing workers’ opportunities and facilitating their work flexibility by creating new career paths.

The public debate around artificial intelligence, digital platforms, automation, and other technologies tends to focus on some of its negative aspects, especially what they will do to jobs. Certainly, the transition to a tech-led society is causing challenges that need to be overcome in the area of jobs, equal opportunities, education, and other aspects of our well-being. But the latest generation of technologies also has impressive potential to do good, in areas ranging from education and health to environmental sustainability, and indeed may be able to mitigate some of the negative effects of adoption and diffusion on job security and material living standards. —————-

Eric Hazan and Jacques Bughin, both senior partners of McKinsey, will present the findings in a key note at VivaTech, Paris on 16 May. The other authors are James Manyika, Pal Erik Sjatil, Tera Allas, Klemens Hjartar and Irina Shigina.

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