We can’t let the tech revolution turbocharge inequality. Environment and climate change

We can’t let the tech revolution turbocharge inequality.

As Australians, our love of a bargain is matched only by our hatred of a big power bill.

So reports this week that a Sydney man is paying less than 50c a day to power his entire home caught our attention.

Four years ago, Nick Pfitzner volunteered to have a big-brand battery installed in his home and connected to his existing rooftop solar panels. The savings appear to be significant.

We won’t delve into the complex economics of solar panels or home batteries—others have done that already. But the current sugar hit of batterymania presents a good opportunity to reflect one of the broader trends that’s emerging.

In the future, Australian homes will undoubtedly be high-tech: stuffed full of gadgets and gizmos, AI devices and voice activated machines, all charged by the sun, or the wind, or the rain, or household garbage—or who even knows?

The point is technologies that haven’t even been invented yet will be commonplace.

The problem is that when new wiz-bang, money-saving devices and clean energy technologies are invented, they’re often too expensive for those who actually need them the most: people on fixed or low incomes.

If you’re struggling to pay the rent, buy food and balance the family budget, it’s a fair bet you’re not at the local tech warehouse browsing the latest cost-saving gadgets or investing in significant home upgrades.

That big battery our Nick Pfitzner installed in his Sydney home? It retails for about $11,000

And there’s the rub. A world where people with healthy finances invest in money-saving upgrades, but where everybody else is left behind in old homes full of outdated tech, is a world of growing inequality.

Nobody wants that.

A world where some people can access money-saving tech and others can’t is a world of growing inequality.

Various rebate, subsidy and innovative finance schemes already exist to help people tap into solar power generation and upgrade old appliances. On the whole, this is a good thing.

But what’s really needed is for a new mindset to adopted and embedded.

Governments the world over need to introduce policies that ensure new leaps in science and technology will benefit everybody, but especially those with little money in the first place.

To be most effective, this must be done early, genuinely and proactively—not as an afterthought.

The last thing we want is for the tech revolution to turbocharge inequality.

  • The issues around energy efficiency, ‘healthy homes’ and power upgrades are covered in more depth in our 2019 flagship report A Climate of Fairness.