Digital disruption

Digital disruption is impacting the world of work, right across the planet. Some digital technologies displace workers, shifting them into other roles. But technologies such as robots and artificial intelligence automate tasks, job roles and activities, replacing workers completely.

Predictions are that 47% of “old world” jobs will disappear. And there won’t be enough “new world” jobs to replace them. The challenge varies across industries, with some sectors facing High Threat, some Medium and some Low. But all sectors are challenged in some way.

Robotisation, AI, IoT, VR, AR, blockchain, remote sensing, 3D printing, cybersecurity, drones, nanotechnology, big data, cloud services, BIM, cryptocurrency, Identity management, facial recognition, social media, Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, Uber and others are all changing the traditional world of work, and this makes it nearly impossible to plan study, career and work options with confidence.

Jobs don’t exist in a vacuum. It is organisations – corporates, businesses, not-for-profits, government and academic institutions - that provide work, and create and offer jobs. So the challenge of digital disruption is to the very existence and success of organisations themselves, not just to jobs. 

All organisations seek to become more productive, efficient and profitable and technology offers that possibility.


The automation of tasks through the use of software, robotics, machine learning and artificial intelligence is a natural outcome of the digital revolution, reducing costs, increasing profitability and eliminating jobs as a result.

A small business can’t afford to employ staff it doesn’t need. Large businesses are driven by shareholder demand for profits and will use software and other technology tools to replace employees to achieve this. So job erosion is a natural consequence of digital disruption.

The process has already begun. 40,000 jobs have disappeared in Australian banks and telecommunications companies over the last five years, with only a few thousand new jobs in IT and data analytics created to replace them.

The challenges of digital disruption are spread across all industry sectors. White collar, blue collar and no collar – and no industry is completely safe.

The Challenges section of the Ed Toolbox outlines the level of threat and opportunity for 400 business categories across 19 industry sectors with a rating of high, medium and low threat, and high, medium and low opportunity presented by technology.

There are 239 business categories where robotics is presenting a test, and 284 business categories challenged by machine learning and AI. These categories are where workers are most likely to be replaced. But “dumb” tasks can be automated. Imagination, ideas and vision can’t be.

So technology also presents opportunities in all industry sectors.

The Opportunities section of the ED Toolbox outlines pathways to employment through further study, smart trades, entrepreneurialism and local work experience, with the library illustrating how organisations are already using new technology to advantage, showcased in the innovation, sustainability and future of work and jobs sections of the library.

Navigating the evolving world of work successfully will remain a challenge for all of us. So it is important to understand which business categories are safest and why, where the opportunities and jobs are most likely to be, and what study and training options might help.

Sector reponses to Covid-19 Disruption

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