eMerge Americas

How cities can cope with tech disruption

An UBER application is shown as cars drive by in Washington, DC.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

Cities everywhere are coping with the labor disruptions posed by new technologies, and perhaps no company embodies this process more than start-up Uber.

When the car-hailing company enters a new market, backlash from the taxi industry often follows. And local governments are forced to either embrace change, or fight to keep the same system in place.

But Uber is really emblematic of a bigger challenge municipalities face, and going forward, governments will need to have a much bigger role in helping people whose jobs are disappearing because of technology, said Kasim Reed, mayor of Atlanta, during a panel at eMerge Americas on Tuesday.

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"Cities are going to have to play a better, more bold role in training people who are being pushed out by technology. That's going to have to be a permanent space we have to be in," Reed said

"It is the fear of having worked in a trade for very long time and then losing that ability that causes people to become destabilized. So the government has to be forceful in that space. So first, folks know we really do care and that care is backed up by real opportunity and that it directs people to the sectors that are the future," he said.

Just like how Uber's mobile approach is impacting the taxi industry, other technologies like robotics also continue to change the employment landscape around the world. In fact, by 2025 smart robots will take 1 in 3 jobs, according to Gartner Research. (Tweet This)

But technology isn't necessarily replacing workers, instead, it is displacing them. And it's in the government's best interest to invest in helping its constituents get the skills they need for new jobs, said Carlos Gimenez, mayor of Miami-Dade County.

"We as mayors have to think about what we are going to do about people who are being displaced by technology," Giminez said. "This change is going to accelerate. So we have to have the programs in place that you can be re-educated to do something else. It could be that whatever you are in today is not going to be what you are doing tomorrow."

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