The Influence of Digitalization on Work, Prosperity and Entrepreneurship

Sectorplan SSH-Breed
Alexander Santos Lima

The Sectorplan SSH-Breed (Dwars Doorsnijdend Thema) is dedicated to the societal effects of digitalization, looking at it from five different perspectives. The contribution from Erasmus University Rotterdam is fully focused on the effects of digitalization on work, prosperity and entrepreneurship.

The interdisciplinary Erasmus Sectorplan SSH-Breed is one of the three plans in the SSH sector that received funding. This Sectorplan SSH-Breed is completely dedicated to the societal effects of digitalization, looking at it from five different perspectives. At EUR this plan involves Erasmus School of Economics (ESE), Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC), Erasmus School of Law (ESL), Erasmus School of Philosophy (ESPhil), Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences (ESSB), and Rotterdam School of Management (RSM).

Scope of the programme

The stability and sustainability of a society derives to a large extent from the way its members earn their daily bread. What kind of work do they do? Is everyone able to participate in the labour market? Do opportunities for entrepreneurship exist and is innovation sufficiently facilitated? What is the basis for prosperity and how is wealth divided?

Due to digitalization of work in and increasingly outside traditional organizations, the answers to the previous questions – as well as many other related questions – are changing fundamentally and at an unprecedented pace. For instance, cloud computing together with low latency network technology has resulted in the death of distance, rendering it less necessary and often even unnecessary to come to a specific location in order to work (together). Stimulated by the changes required as a result of the Covid-pandemic, all kinds of online interactions that we used to consider unusual or even illegitimate, such as online shareholder meetings, have suddenly become business as usual. 

Besides the physical aspect of working, also its organizational aspects have changed. The number of self-employed people who offer their services through the Internet has exploded. “Influencer” has become a new type of job with significant appeal to many. The platform economy is growing rapidly, and is expected to constitute 30% of the total global economy by 2030.

Furthermore, the nature of work in many sectors is changing due to digitalization. For instance, the increasing monitoring of our behaviour through smart technologies and the growing use of AI can be the basis for clever suggestions to improve the way we work and efficiency, but it can also undermine the right to be let alone.  
Last but not least, the rapidly growing availability of data about products, processes, consumer behaviour and investments by competitors, deeply affects how we make decisions in the context of work, prosperity and entrepreneurship. In our work, how can we make better use of the vast amounts of data that is available in cyberspace and how can we make sure that we draw the right conclusions, despite the enormous volume of data that confronts us?

Given that all questions and challenges mentioned concern rapid developments, no time is to be lost in studying and understanding these developments profoundly. By combining expertise from a wide range of disciplines, we aim to develop a better understanding of the enormous opportunities associated with digitalization for individual workers, their organizations and society as a whole. Simultaneously, we also aim to develop a more profound comprehension of its disadvantages and risks. Both from an academic and a societal point of view this represents a tremendous challenge in relation to a rapidly moving target, and to address it effectively, expertise from all social sciences and humanities involved will be indispensable.

Overview of the themes

Against the background of this overall topic, five themes have been defined within 'The influence of digitalization on work, prosperity and entrepreneurship'. The themes ‘Digital Society’ and ‘Platform Economy’ investigate consequences at the level of society as a whole ('macro'), at the level of sectors ('meso'), and for and inside individual organizations ('micro') respectively. The themes 'Digital decision support', 'New ways of working' and 'Cyber risks and cybercrime' elaborate on specific aspects of the influence of digitalization. If one wants to pinpoint the perspective of these themes on the macro-micro scale they gravitate towards micro, but here again a clean distinction is difficult to make.

Themes

  • The Digital Society 
  • Digitalization and platformization of work processes and products
  • Digital decision support
  • Digitalization, new ways of working and the new employee
  • Work related cyber risks and cybercrime

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