Broadband IS the solution to unemployment

With my two countries, Israel and the United States, falling behind in broadband penetration and unemployment still confounding Israel, I found the following posting to Slashdot very interesting.

“Well, let me detail my own situation then: I’m an IT engineer in a country where unemployment is in the double digits. In my specific age and education class it’s over 25%. I only ever get few-month-long missions for ever-varying employers. I can be laid off in a single day with no compensation, and I know a pay rise won’t be happening in years. Social care ensures I get a revenue in between, but only for a few months.

And aside from that, I make about half as much as my salary in Second Life using my programmation and innovation skills. I really consider this additional revenue to be my insurance against misery, should I not manage to get a new job after the current one, mainly because I can work at it from most places in the world, anytime, for almost as long as I want or can afford. That’s some significant security in my opinion.”

For those of you who don’t know SecondLife (Benchmark is invested in Second Life) it is a virtual world with in-world and real world commerce and entertainment. Users can purchase, trade and sell goods and services in the world for real dollars. You can see a similar phenomenon in Kartrider, a Korean world with similar economic model. See this Business Week article on Kartrider (excerpt below).

After graduating from college this spring, Kim Hyun Wook of Seoul had been expecting to launch into a career as an engineer. Instead, he has joined the ranks of professional race car drivers — though he never has to leave home to hit the track.

Every morning, Kim logs on to his computer using the screen name of Sarang (Korean for “love”) and races against rivals in an online game called Kart Rider for at least eight hours. For his cyber-driving, he gets paid real money by a local clothing company, which in turn emblazons its brand name on the virtual driver of a virtual car. “I feel like a star,” says Kim, 21. “My fans send me gifts, and I have a sponsor supporting my life.”

What these worlds are proving is that with nothing more than some skills and a broadband connection, people are supplementing their income and staying off unemployment. This brave new world of the internet is creating “job opportunities” and earning potential in ways that we did not imagine.

Therefore, investing in the internet is akin to investing in highways and trains and other forms of infrastructure that spur economic growth. These “jobs” will spread to other more-connected countries if the US and Israel do not move faster. Especially in Israel, which is a small country, spreading subsidized broadband to the masses, can be easily accomplished and should be a national imperative to help alleviate unemployment.

[Originally published on 17th February 2006 by MIchael Eisenberg]