Till only two centuries ago almost every human being lived and worked from home. The industrial revolution brought factories, then offices forced city-dwellers to commute to work and back.
But with the Information Age, smart devices in the hands of smart people means we can once again work from home. Going to an office will and should become irrelevant. Home workers will also not have to work five days a week. They will be so productive, three days will be enough.
That is probably what will also reduce traffic jams, improve the air quality and as we become healthier, we will once again live longer. Where you are physically located will become irrelevant and the notion of going abroad will be limited to leisure, adventure and disposable incomes. But even here, we have seen a 15% drop in domestic air travel in northern Europe as awareness of the extent of the impact of aviation on the climate crisis becomes clear.
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The transformation in the way we work is going to have huge implication for the designs of homes, neighbourhoods and cities. The key word is ‘work’. There still are many who are looking for a jagir salaried job in the civil service or private companies. Perception and understanding of work and jagir will be very different depending on who you ask.
Some still seek a ten to five jagir in an office that pays a fixed income each month, comes with a lifelong pension, and takes a little bit of chakari to keep bosses and political masters happy. Performance and delivery of output are not really an issue, and the worst thing that can happen is you get moved to a different office or to some remote area of the country away from your family and the schools your children attend.
Many are seeking a jagir, while others seek work. From construction to managing a restaurant, from driving a taxi or tipper truck to growing crops and vegetables, there are many who work.
Work requires self-discipline and a high level of skill and knowledge, which come with a piece of paper that proves you can actually do what you are claiming. There are many risks, including not being paid or being constantly told that the work you did was not good enough.
Work may also involve long hours and no holidays, unlike in a jagir where days off are published a year in advance. People who seek work like being independent and want to take risks knowing the benefits are there. They love to have fun, they really know when and how to spend time with family and friends.
With the ongoing restructuring of the state there will be fewer government and private sector jagirs going around in Kathmandu. This may be a good opportunity to carve out our work niche for ourselves. Many already have a head start.
Numerous producers and service providers have set up businesses. Many young people tell us that they are skilled, they have support from the family, have a bit of savings and they want to work – gainfully and independently.
These are smart Nepalis with smart devices who want to work smart. They partner with other smart people and wish to live in smart houses in smart neighbourhoods of smart cities. The marketing is all data-driven in an age where data is more valuable than oil.
We now need to extend this concept to our towns and cities. For example, being climate smart is critical for the future of humanity and hence there is a need for all individuals and families to do their own carbon audits. A smart app can tell us our carbon footprints, and suggest ways to reduce it.
The smartest system is our ecosystem, and we are all smart enough to learn how nature produces for us and its limits to absorb what we waste. As we plan our homes, cities, energy and infrastructure, let us place smart citizens and their work at the centre of all planning.
Anil Chitrakar is President of Siddharthinc