The gig economy is becoming vital for how organisations gain their digital talent. In the US the on demand workforce will increase in 2018 by 23% year on year. According to Mary Meeker’s 2018 Internet Trends Report  a comparison to this shift can be made to the movement from agricultural to industrial economies beginning in the 18th century, with 76% of on demand workers actively choosing freelancing over traditional employment.

The number of technology firms has exploded according to the same report. In 2013, nine out of the 20 largest technology companies were US based, while two were in China. At present, eleven of them are in the US while increasing to nine in China, reflecting the massive domestic growth in Chinese tech companies.

In 2017 over half the world’s population (3.6bn) was connected to the internet although the rate of adoption is starting to slow. The number of internet users rose by 12% in 2016, while in 2017 it only grew by 7%. Infrastructure problems and high costs are challenging companies to innovate, in order to connect the rest of the world.

The price of smartphones and other internet enabled devices is falling, as the technology has become far cheaper to mass produce. This is expected with any technology, but what is fascinating is the rate of technological disruption. As Meeker points out, it took Americans 80 years to adopt the dishwasher. Household internet adoption took only a decade.

These changes have encouraged more people to undertake lifelong learning, at AT&T for instance, 77% of its workforce is engaged in web-based retraining programs (roughly 194,000 employees). Freelancers in particular, have come to embrace lifelong learning, with more than 50% of those surveyed having taken a course in the last six months.

With China’s tech industry rising to match the US, the increasing need for freelancers, companies are investing more in upskilling and now there are more people connected to the internet than those who aren’t, Meeker’s report demonstrates how digital industries are rapidly becoming the dominant industry of the 21st century. 

Dominic Whaley, Digital Content Specialist based at K2 Partnering Solutions HQ in London.

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