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Globalisierung und Technologie / Globalization and Technology Vienna City Hall, February 1995
Rethinking the City: The Changing Shape of Work ina Knowledge Society

Abstract     Lecture     Author

Eric Britton - EcoPlan International (F)

 

 

1. RETHINKING WORK: THE POINT OF DEPARTURE

We are here today because we have a problem- and because we think we may have a solution. The problem thatbrings us from across Austria, Europe and yet further to Viennafor this meeting is the result above all of what I and othersare calling 'the crisis of work in post-industrial society'. Thesolution, maybe, is what some are calling telework. Both are interesting,but perhaps I can be of most use to you here if I first sharea few thoughts with you about the first of these, before goingon to the latter.

1.1. The crisis of work in post-industrialsociety

Government, the political establishment, employers,labor unions, the media, citizens and observers across Europeare increasingly preoccupied and perplexed by something that oftengets referred to as the "unemployment problem". Despitethe gravity of the issues, however, few of these people or institutionsyet seem to have an inkling of

  • the true dimensions of the problem,
  • its actual structure,
  • its watershed historical significance or even
  • the path to take to begin to address the issues (never mindfind workable solutions).

"Americans have learned how to replaceworkers with technology, but they do not yet know how to use technologyto put people back to work." (Newsweek, Oct. 18, 1982).

The result of this massive failure of perceptionis a certain dourness in tone and attitude, a broadly shared presumptionthat large scale unemployment is somehow inevitable in our post-industrialsociety, and that there is really nothing we can do about it.This compliant fatalism is consistently supported by the resultsas they roll in from the various statistical agencies and otherreporting sources which continue to confirm that no real progressis being made and that the problems are getting steadily worse.

This has led in turn to a certain morosity,an acceptance that somehow failure is inevitable, that the futureis going to be one of a society divided in two, of winners andlosers, haves and have-nots, and that there is nothing that anyone,government or anyone else, can do anything about it, other thanto make sure that they and those they represent end up on thewinning side. This is as true of national governments as it isof individual firms, of the labor unions as of those with jobstoday, of the political left as the political right.

"Too many in Europe, from factory workersto politicians, act as if those the good times will inevitablyreturn for those who wait. They should remember the economists'clich╚ that no lunch is free. The greatest problem forEurope today may not be unemployment but complacency." (TheEconomist, October 22, 1994).

Dissatisfied with the level of the debate -and above all with the demonstrably inadequate results of policythroughout most parts of the OECD region - EcoPlan set out inearly 1993 to develop a procedure to test a certain number ofproblem statements: propositions and working hypotheses that wereset out in a first exploratory memorandum which we set out tobe tested by a properly qualified, international audience. Aftertwo years of study, networking, brainstorming, and internationalexchanges involving a wide range of individuals, institutions,disciplines, nationalities and points of view - and with strongsupport throughout from the European Commission in Brussels -we have reached the following conclusions which, in our view,provide a convincing argument for the need to take a radicallydifferent look at the issues and the remedial policies we allshould be considering.

Let me review with you briefly the eleven mainpoints that came out of this rethinking effort.

1.2. The Eleven Bones of Contention

1. The Present Crisis of Work is Profound,Structural, And Society Threatening

Despite unexpected progress in recent monthsas a result of the upturn in the international economy, the basicstructural problems of work in society remain essentially unaddressed.Unemployment rates have inexorably inched up across the OECD region,crossing thresholds first double and now triple or more the longaccepted norms for "frictional" or "normal"unemployment, creating new magnitudes of hardship and sufferingfor individuals, families and institutions alike. The basic structuralproblems associated with "running out of work" are notonly very grave already, but also are steadily getting worse.When we say very grave, we mean not just uncomfortable or transient- but the crisis is fundamental, structural, long term and, ultimatelyif unmet, society threatening.

2. Growth and Fine-Tuning Is Clearly NotThe Answer

Confronted with what is clearly a major watershedof technology and society, our politicians, administrators, industrialists,labor unions and the rest are by and large giving their time toconsidering "remedies", most of which in the final analysisconsist of little more than marginal adjustments of existing policies,practices and institutions. The presumption appears to be thatthere is nothing basically wrong with the "machine that isthe economy", and that all that is required is a bit of fine-tuningand an upturn in the economic cycle. This is in our view a cosmicmis-match of medicine and disease. Growth as we know it will dealwith only a small part of the problem (say, 15 to 20% at most)- and all of the rest still remains to be addressed.

3. We Have a Grossly Inadequate Understandingof What Work Is All About

Clearly the point of departure for any seriousremedial program cannot be to treat work as if it were only "labor",i.e., just one more freely substitutable part of the process ofproduction. In our society work is a great deal more than that.In addition to its purely productive role, it is also the mainvehicle that puts into the hands of citizens the means to obtainthe goods and services they want and need in their daily lives.It is thus the vital motor (through demand pull) for keeping theproductive side busy. But work has many other important functionstoo, of a psychological and social nature, none of which are gettingsufficient play in the present debate. Moreover, it is clear thatwhat we call "work" in the 21st century is going todiffer as notably from what we have come to know over the lasttwo centuries as did the model of the Industrial Revolution fromits predecessor.

4. We Are Looking at the Wrong Indicators

How do you get out of the woods if your compassis broke? In examining the issues we are consistently lookingat the wrong things - and often measuring even those wrongly.This is disguising the true dimensions of our dilemma. Thus, forexample, the real dimensions of unemployment are in most placesat least half again more than what is usually admitted or discussed.If that is true, of course, it changes everything. Furthermore,what we call work is a rich and complex phenomenon which has manyimportant qualitative aspects which are by no means reflectedin the usual indicators and in the discussions that ensue. Theday of single indicators (and single factor causality) needs tobe put firmly behind us. Progress is badly needed in developingnew indicators that can permit us to understand better where thingsstand, in all their human and natural complexity.

5. The Time Scale of the Analyses Is AllWrong

The problems are not cyclical or short termin nature, but structural and long term. We cannot simply waitfor that next upturn in the current economic cycle. The time horizonof study and policy is thus not the old familiar one of monthsor a few years, but closer to generational. Our frame of referencecannot be the blips of the latest NBER figures or quarterly indicators,but the realms of Adam Smith, Marx, Kondratiev, Keynes and Schumpeter.The dilemma in front of this unfamiliar situation is a double-bind:not only do we need to sharpen and develop analytic tools whichcan deal with these deeper horizons, but also to rethink drasticallythe institutional and political arrangements which will permitus to make better decisions against this necessary long term frame.

6. We Have a Major "Tools Problem"

Furthermore, we are struggling with these problemsusing analytic tools that are ill-adapted to the challenges ofa post-industrial, mature, "post-capitalist" economy.Most of them were by and large fashioned at a time when scarcitywas the driving factor in society, not plenty. Economics, forinstance, is often defined as "the study of the allocationof scarce resources between various and competing ends".But if resources are available in great abundance as they are!- aren't entirely different analytic tools required? How doesone factor in the externalities of work, including those thatare positive? What are these new tools? Who should be trying todevelop and refine them? Where is promising work going on alongthese lines which we all should be trying to follow? Furthermore,and not without irony, it needs to be mentioned that our analytictools themselves are part of the problem. Therefore one of ourfirst steps must be to develop the new tools that are needed andto refashion the best of those we have to accomplish the job thatis needed in their new environment.

7. The Paradox of Progress

The measures currently in place are not doingthe job, because there can be no easy fixes to these problems.The harsh reality is that the circumstances before us are neithertemporary nor the result of some hapless accident; they are thedirect outcome of the social and economic system we have set inplace. We have deliberately created all the preconditions of a"labor-saving" society - and are now somehow flabbergastedthat there are increasing numbers of people "out of work".Our dilemma is precisely this: with the long long arm of technology,we can now produce virtually everything we need with only a smallfraction of the labor force we historically employed. So the realquestion is: how do we organize our daily lives under these radicallydifferent conditions? This absolutely vital question is not receivingthe attention that it deserves.

8. Radical Rethinking is Called For

A critical read of the evidence makes it clearthat the entire "work system" that we presently areliving with (both in our daily lives, but, even more importantin this case, the one we have in our minds) is no longer doingits job. Not only is there something that is already quite wrong,but, whatever it is, it is only going to get a lot "wronger"in the years ahead. The system we are stuck with and franticallytrying to fix comes from another time and an entirely differentset of circumstances. It is changing massively in front of ournoses and needs to be completely rethought and radically over-hauled.

9. The Changing Shape of Work

Complicating all this yet further is that thetransition from 'old work' to 'new work' is already well underway,and that this transition itself poses a large number of majorchallenges to policy makers. Think of it as a migration, withan entire population trooping from an exhausted country side tonew and fertile valleys. Who wants to move? No one, of course,but here we all are already moving into this new country of work.In the old days we talked about jobs, places where we went towork, the daily trip to those places, our schedules, the one employerwho paid us, and the like. But in 1995 this is increasingly the'old country'. Each year now we are going to see growing numberof people migrating to the new forms of work which are going tobe oriented not to jobs but to careers, not to single employersbut multiple skills, not to subservience to a single master butnetworks of associates and clients. Making this transition isgoing to be one of the great tasks of the next decade, and thisis going to open up many opportunities for government at all levelsto help ease and even accelerate the transition. All these variousdifferences and changes need to be factored into the debate (whichtill now has been remarkably "retro-oriented" in itsvision of what work is all about.)

10. Many of Currently Proposed MeasuresMay Make Things Even Worse

The crowning news of our dilemma is that, asa result of a badly wrong-headed understanding of the basic "problematique",many of the measures presently being discussed or enacted runthe risk of being directly counter-productive. Some are likelyto lock in parts of the problem. Others, yet more perniciously,risk to create situations which could be substantially worse thanwhat would have resulted with no policy at all. We must developa much clearer view, first of the problem, and then of the policyoptions which are available under the circumstances we actuallyface.

11. The "Problem" Holds the Solution(The Age of Plenty Paradox)

Because of the accumulated impacts of technologydevelopment, we have entered an age of plenty - without reallyrecognizing it. But for some unfathomable reasons we insist onapproaching the challenges before us as if we were paupers. Hereis what countries within the OECD region now have in untold historicalabundance: labor, capital, natural resources, physical and othersupport infrastructure, organizational and management skills,access to markets and huge numbers of people around the worldwho need goods, services and a higher quality of life.

But no one appears to be taking this greatabundance into account. We somehow stubbornly refuse to acknowledgewhat is going on. Technology - embodied, usable knowledge - isat the heart of our dilemma, but in a highly ironic way. On theone hand it is a critical part of the problem, on the other itis at the same time an absolutely vital element of the solution.This point, which is not being adequately brought into the debate,needs to be targeted, verified and then broadcast. To the bestof our knowledge no one is giving this thesis the attention thatit deserve - and yet all the germs of the solution are there!

The American journalist and seasoned politicalobserver Flora Lewis had this to say of these inextricably inter-twinedchallenges of technology, economy and society in an article shepublished in the International Herald Tribune (18 May 1993) entitled:Peasants, All of Us? Time for a New Marx: "This profoundeconomic process has not been analyzed and intellectually digested,as Marx set out to do for his time. Mr. Drucker says we do notyet understand how knowledge works as a resource. 'We need a theory,'he says. Most urgently, we need a theory that redefines laborand how to set its value. The difference between work and playis now essentially defined by money, whether you are paid forwhat you do or pay for doing it. Industrial society has made labora crucial element of identity. You are what you work at. Thatis why being unemployed is such a blow, even if the safety netis adequate. Being without a job is being made to feel a nobody.But at least in the transition phase of this new industrial revolution,there are not going to be enough jobs for all. So a new analyst,a new theory, a new understanding of the role of labor is required.Let us hope that when the new Marx appears he will not be so arrogant,so fertile in spawning error and terror as was the old. Still,we do need one."

["Telework as we typically discuss itis only the tip of a growing iceberg. Above the surface is thevisible issue of remote work locations and how to use them effectively,a subject about which we have learned a great deal and which isno longer much of an issue. Below the surface are related issuesof flexibility in the workplace in general, managerial (in)competence,rethinking of office space requirements and designs, transportationand land use planning, and what I call "life after bureaucracy":the prospects for organizational forms other than traditionalhierarchical structures. 1"]

The purpose of our meeting today is of coursemuch more specific than this. We have not come to Vienna in orderto rethink Marx (or Freud or Darwin), but rather to try to providethe organizers of this symposium with what will hopefully be usefulperspective on some of the directions that this great city mightconsider as it moves into the next century, starting with onevery specific set of problems and eventual remedial approaches.

Even as we do this, however, I believe it isvital that we keep in mind these very big macro issues of technology,economy and society which badly need to be faced and resolvedin the years ahead. In one way we are in luck, since it turnsout that this thing that we call telework presents a powerfulmicrocosm of these broader issues and challenges. Thus, if wecan somehow manage to get it right in the projects that we areconsidering for the City of Vienna, there is just a chance thatwe might be able to make some powerful inroads on the rest aswell. Now that would be something of which we all could reallybe proud.

2. INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVES ON TELEWORK

The field of technology and organizationaldevelopments collectively known as telework is an area of considerableinterest, both in its own right and also as a "lens"for looking at and eventually better understanding many aspectsof the broader work and society agenda that I would like to insistis the thing that we should always have at the back of our mindas we address the issues that are on today's agenda.

It is important right here at the outset, however,that we be clear as to what we mean by this somewhat awkward andreally not very pretty new word. While as you will note from theother presentations this is a pretty elusive term, a reasonablygood definition might be: a range of new ways of working, usingtelecommunications as a critical tool, with a different 'geography',a new sense of time and worker 'empowerment', and for at leastpart of the time outside a traditional office or factory environment.We need to define it in such very general terms in order to besure that we do not invite confusion with other terms that oneoften hears mentioned in this regard, such as the perhaps betterknow expression, telecommuting. In its own way telecommuting isin many ways the 'old country' of telework, a much narrower sub-setof technologies and work organisation that is by now quite wellunderstood in its advantages and corresponding drawbacks. Butyou will be hearing more about all these aspects from other speakersat this meeting, so let me get back to some more general considerations.

Telework in the broad definition that is appropriateto our meeting is a domain of technology and corresponding organisationalactivity which is already well underway and poised to undergomajor and far-reaching development around the world in the decadeahead. This development is going to be both quantitative and qualitative,and its impact on employment - again, both qualitative and quantitative- is going to be enormous. Most of the development that is inprocess around the OECD region and elsewhere....

  • Is taking place in the field (and just not in laboratoriesor research settings)
  • Is occurring within existing organizations (but requiringsubstantial rethinking and meticulous reorganisation to achieveits full potential)
  • Is being carried out for a variety of reasons in responseto a given implementing company's or group's internal problemsor objectives (not in order to telework per se)
  • Is being lead by applications and "demand pull",not by technology push. (That said, the former will only be possiblebecause of continuing rapid advances in the technology itself.)

All of this is moving and changing very fast- certainly much faster than those of us who do not have the timeto follow these developments carefully will be aware. In fact,the pace of development - because much of it is hidden in theinterstices of existing institutions and practices - is even fasterthan even many of the enthusiastic tele-philes may imagine. Asimportant as sheer technology advance, however, will be the developmentof the adaptive capacities (organizational, management, etc.)of those groups and institutions who learn how to put these opportunitiesto work.

The good news is that while these technologiesand practices might in certain specific instances possibly reducejobs, properly supported (through revisions in the law, businesspractices, etc.) the move to telework can be expected to extendthe possibility of working to many more people (including thosewho at present suffer from geographic, life style or mobilitydisadvantages that inhibit their participation in today's workforce) and, potentially, in substantially improved work circumstancesand life quality.

As we try to figure out what the role for governmentand others might be in making this transition, we need to avoidbeing naive concerning the impacts of these shifts. Especiallycareful attention needs to be paid to its potential downsides,which are fairly numerous. While many of these are often not exactlyself-evident, the growing literature and experience in the fieldhave led to them being reasonably well charted.

The truth is that telework is very much a two-edgedsword - though often not advertised as such by its less criticalchampions. This makes it important that we maintain a consistentlycritical attitude toward all projects and initiatives, which callsfor close and continuing monitoring, public reporting and carefulattention to social and psychological factors and impacts as wellas to the rest.

Within this broader framework, telework perse makes a useful target for policy makers on several grounds.First, because it holds many of the keys to flexible working orflexwork - a much more extensive and powerful concept. Flexworksignals the departure from the old work mode which is still thefocus of most public policy: i.e., that 'permanent' full timejob with one employer, in one (distant) place, with set hours,etc., etc. Beyond this, telework has a technology and organizationalcomponent which is highly visible, fast moving and linked to someof the most important issues on today's technology and societyagenda. It thus makes a fine point of departure for the broaderdebate and transformation or work in society which, if you willforgive me for harping on it, has to be the main concern of allof our considerations in these matters.

Here to close out this section are some ofthe main observations and recommendations concerning teleworkthat we made in a report to the Commission under this projectunder the title New Concepts of Work in a Knowledge Society: TheTelework Option Reviewed and Commented.

The transition to telework is going to takeplace with or without the benefit of guiding government policy.Based on past performance of government in most issues involvingtechnology development, it is unlikely that public sector institutionsare going to have a major role to play in determining the finedetail of the development process. In this respect it needs tobe borne in mind very carefully that there is no clear model ofhow government can best intervene or act in such areas.

On the other hand, there are abundant examplesfrom the past of how to get it wrong. These past experiences needto be carefully examined as local, regional and national governmenttries to figure out what might be their own best contributionin this important opportunity area. We know by now that governmentis not very good at choosing technology winners, and that it tendsto be more a source of barriers to creative innovation and diffusionof technology than a positive aid. But there is a very important"facilitating" role that government at all levels canplay. Moreover, informed government can also become a practitionerof the best new forms of technology and organization, rather thana laggard.

The public sector should have no need to sponsoror pay for related technology development work, and certainlynot in partnership with large or established industrial or othergroups. For example, the Alcatels, Fords, IBM's, Nokias, and Siemensof Europe are not going to need any help in this area - eitheras users or as potential suppliers. These large groups are stayingfully abreast of these developments, have their own in-house usesand capabilities which are already quite advanced, and are alreadydeploying the technology just about as fast as they can. And whiletheir speed in doing this is important in international competitiveterms, it will of course increase their advantages relative tosmall business and the public sector.

There will be good reason for public agenciesto sponsor and aid telework and flexwork demonstrations in areasin which they can provide new and sound models for small businesses,public sector institutions and others who are out of the mainstreamof technology development.

These demonstrations will need to be closelymonitored and continuously fine tuned to achieve best results.These results should be quickly made available to small business,fledgling entrepreneurs, and public institutions (including educationand training) not only in the form of the usual written reportsand conferences but taking advantage of new techniques of communicationand education as well.

Public sponsorship for telework demonstrationsshould probably be as intersectoral and inter-agency as possible.Invariably a broad spectrum of public institutions will need tobe involved, and a new model of cross-sectoral support needs tobe developed and given high visibility.

3. SOME FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS FROM THEBERLIN ASSEMBLY ON NEW WAYS TO WORK

In closing I would like to leave you with aquick listing of some of the main conclusions that were reachedby an international panel that was convened in November of lastyear in Germany by the European Commission to consider the mattersthat have brought us here today, under the heading The BerlinAssembly on New Ways to Work. I can only hope that they will beuseful for you in your discussions here.

Telework is a concept that needs to be carefullyinterpreted from two very different perspectives. On the one handit refers a broad package of technologies and associated workingarrangements. This is what most discussions on these matters tendto emphasise. But telework has another role as well: that of anenabler, something which can help make us to think creativelyabout New Ways to Work in the broadest sense - and in the processputting us directly before the larger issues of managing the transitionto a knowledge society.

Given the priorities and concerns of Europetoday - among which we certainly include the challenges surroundingEurope's twenty-three million - plus unemployed - telework, inits first and narrower focus, is probably not the proper focusof a major policy debate, per se. The much more important issue(of which telework is a part) is the ways in which new technologyand new forms of organization are rapidly reshaping society asa whole - including not least of course that of work in virtuallyall its varieties and perspectives.

There can be no doubt that the vital key ofnew technology, etc. is the combination of new telecommunicationsand information technologies -- never of course to be separatedfrom their management, institutional and behavioural support systems.Taken together these are the main constituents of the KnowledgeRevolution that is now rapidly transforming the ways in whichwe live, work and play. A number of outstanding characteristicsof this global revolution in process can be noted, which togetherpoint up the very real urgency of informed policy:

This is a transformation which is already inprogress and making its impacts felt with steadily increasingforce.

  • Its potential for transforming the face of society is enormous.
  • These developments are still only in their very early stages,meaning that this is the time n which they can best be shapedand harnessed.

As with all of technology, this is not a whollybenevolent movement and that while there is much scope for doinggood, there are also substantial potential for negative impacts,both in general and on specific groups, regions, etc. While manyimportant decisions are being taken each day which shape the futureof many of us, in most cases the level of information and insightas yet available against which to take wise decisions is in veryshort supply.

It is often argued by its champions that teleworkcould be a source of net new jobs. This is not at all clear interms of the actual evidence. On the other hand, there is plentyof evidence that suggests that from a specific regional or localperspective, telework initiatives may be used as a means to saveexisting jobs, to improve their productivity and to create newjobs, within that community. Seen from this perspective, teleworkconstitutes a potentially useful element in the portfolio of policiesand practices that any region or community should be looking atfor regional development purposes.

Telejobs created or parachuted in by externalgroups are, however, likely to be much more fragile than thosewhich are generated by local employers and entrepreneurs. Communitiesand regions should, therefore, resist the temptation to dependon outside help and instead devote their energies to "growing"their own enterprises and initiatives, including through the teleworkoption.

The important role that small and medium sizedbusinesses - including new business start-ups, soleproprietorships,and quasi-private community-based enterprises - are playing bothin terms of pushing out the limits of telework et al, and in creatingnew jobs, can be noted. As we consider this, it may suggest someinteresting support roles that the public sector might performto increase the ability of these smaller and newer businessesto grow and prosper.

It will be important to make an especial effortto bring in the organized labor union movement to a greater degreeinto the discussions and work on these issues. For various reasons,they have by and large been left out until now. While the attitudeand aptitudes of the unions vary considerably from country tocountry and union to union, but that there is growing interestat the leading edge of the labor movement in concepts like telework.By inviting the union movement into the telework program as anactive partner, a much needed two-way learning process will therebybe engaged.

Whether teleworkers are going to operate throughthe organized labor movement or via "clubs" and interestgroups which could help them deal with some of the problems thatsome face of terms of isolation, physical, social and often legal,is something that has yet to be sorted out. The need for financial,legal and other support systems for teleworkers, and in particularthose who are most isolated in the home, is very real and constitutesa legitimate source of public concern.

We stand today on the brink of a new orderof technology that is already transforming the face of societyand the economy. This presents a not-to-be-repeated leadershipchallenge and opportunity. Despite the fact that there is an enormous,in many ways even a dominant role for the private sector and awhole plethora of other actors and institutions to play in thisbroad area (the great bulk of the investment and activity is ultimatelygoing to come from other than public sources) there is also avery important leadership responsibility from the vantage of societyas a whole. This is a challenge which now needs to be met headon.

For a variety of reasons, these challengesand opportunities cannot be left solely to the pressures and preferencesof private interests and unfettered market forces. There are importantissues of community involved which require thoughtful and effectivepublic leadership. This is, however, a most delicate task andshould not be interpreted as a call for substituting public sectorcommand-and-control decisions, technocratic intervention and/ortaxpayer moneys for the energy and competence of the private sectorwhich is certainly going to be the main instrumentality of thisconversion. The role of the public sector will be to create aninformed, responsible and convivial context for the dynamics ofthis transformation. If there were ever an occasion for soundinformation, wisdom and far-sighted leadership from the publicsector, now is the time.

In many ways, this can be thought of as a mostuseful test ground for public policy. Thus, if public sector bodieseventually "succeed" in their relationship and rolewith telework, they should be well positioned to handle the remainderof the new technology policy issues which are ongoing as partof the Knowledge Revolution, of which telework is but one part.(The same challenge and opportunity holds for all levels of government,from local government all the way up to the European Commissionand other international bodies.)

Because experience with telework has in theindividual countries of the Union yet to attain the critical massrequired to sustain rapid development on the scale needed, thepublic sector has an important role to play as a champion, co-ordinatorand communicator, as well as sponsor of exemplary demonstrationsof a kind that can lead to ready replication in many places.

This is a responsibility which has many parts.In the first place and most conspicuously, the public sector atall levels has in this regard a special "shepherding"responsibility for ensuring that these powerful new technologiesand tools are going to provide positive opportunities for poorerpeople, poorer areas, disadvantaged groups, regions undergoingde-industrialisation, people and institution having difficultymaking the transition to these 'new ways to work', etc. Teleworkand the technologies behind it offer exceptional opportunitiesin this regard, which need to be aggressively factored into thepublic policy effort. That said, it is also quite possible thatthese technologies could actually exacerbate the problems of certainalready disadvantaged groups and regions.

In this same spirit, we further note the potentialof telework as one among the battery of tools needed to combatthe emerging problems of a two-speed Europe: that of a populationwith increasing social and economic cleavages. Telework, properlyharnessed, can provide a powerful means of continuing education,continuous learning, etc., to strengthen the employability ofpeople who otherwise might be destined to sink yet further intothe less favoured half of a Europe split into two.

In a democratic Europe, telework cannot beallowed to become the tool of a privileged professional class,but must be advanced from the broad social-economic perspectivethat is appropriate for the Union. A major goal of public institutionsand concerned thinkers and actors at all levels should be to ensurethat the fruits of this technology are made equally availableto all groups across society, and not just those who happen tobe best positioned to take advantage of it (which by and largeis what is going on in most places at present).

The leadership challenge is not, however, limitedsolely to the poorer or more disadvantaged parts of European society.Telework and the knowledge revolution more generally are goingto transform lives in all reaches of society, and the associatedtechnologies and arrangements are very much two-edged swords thatneed to be wielded with care. Even those who today may see themselvesas being in privileged positions run risks as a result of thesechanges as well. Thus, an important part of the leadership functionmust be to improve the collective consciousness of what is goingon so that all reaches of society will be able to improve theirwell-being and quality of life - individually and collectively.

Much work remains to be done to improve thegrasp of all concerned concerning these fundamental issues andtrade-offs. The issues of telework, new communications advances,the changing shape of work, etc., all need to be approached andunderstood from a much more informed and profound background thanpresently prevails. The Commission, the Parliament and governmentat all levels can take a major role in broadening and deepeningthe debate around these as yet poorly understood issues. New andpowerful tools are now available to accomplish this.
 

* * *

New and powerful tools are now available toaccomplish this. Let me leave the word to the meeting now to considerhow we are going to put these tools, this knowledge and the enormousresources that are at the command of our post-industrial societyto work in the city of Vienna.
 

Footnotes:

1) Gil E. Gordon, Some Semi-Random ObservationsOn The Status And Future Of Telework, Submitted to the "NewConcepts of Work in an Information Society" meeting, EcoPlan,Paris, 10/11 December 1993

2) You may wish to contact the Commission inorder to obtain the several reports that came out of that meeting.The panel whose consecution are quoted here met under the title,The Changing Shape of Work and brought together a number of Membersof the European and national Parliaments, representatives of localand regional government, labor union spokespersons, telework expertsand practitioners, representatives of public interest groups,academics and administrators, including some of us who are herein this room today. The reports can be had by contacting DG XIII/B1,avenue de Beaulieu 9, B-1160 Brussels or by fax (322-296-2980).

3) This split into two speeds can be interpretedin a number of ways: those in the top percentiles vs. those atthe bottom; big vs. small businesses; those with jobs and thosewithout; educated/uneducated; skilled/unskilled; isolated ruralvs. connected urban; old vs. young; East Europe/West Europe; etc.But in all cases, 21st century communications and new attitudestoward work can be used to break down many of these barriers andfacilitate upward mobility - if the right incentives and structuresare there. And we can be sure that they will not be there, unlessthere is the right kind of supporting public policy! That of courseis our challenge.

 

 
 
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