Quentyn Taylor from canon joined us to chat about Reducing the digital skills gap in Africa; Stanfford Masie also joins us to discuss how artificial intelligence can increase job creation.
Plugging the gap – how businesses can resolve Europe’s digital skills shortage
Digital transformation is revolutionizing the European workplace, with its ability to streamline processes, reduce expenditure and enhance the service offering. Rapidly advancing digital technologies are already being used in hundreds of sectors, including farming, healthcare, transport, education, retail, home automation and logistics. The demand for information and communications technology specialists is growing fast – so much so that according to the European Commission, 9 out of 10 jobs in the future will require digital skills.
At the same time though, 169 million Europeans between 16 and 74 years – 44% – do not have basic digital skills. This means that the benefits that digitization can drive are quite literally under threat as Europe is failing to produce enough IT graduates. What’s worse is that as the pace of technological development snowballs, this gulf is widening. The prospect of 500,000 unfilled jobs in the European IT sector by 2020 is very real and looming.
Businesses cannot expect governments to tackle this crisis on their own. Firstly, disruptive and revolutionary innovations will always affect private companies before they affect the state – because businesses tend to try out new technologies before governments do. As a result, nobody understands the implications of and reasons for the digital skills gap better than the businesses that are directly suffering the consequences.
Secondly, with a capable and trained workforce, businesses stand to benefit enormously from digitization. Any organization, large or small, can contribute to tackling the growing digital skills gap, either by addressing it within their own function or by providing skills training more widely. Indeed, it is their responsibility to do so. Below we look at the three steps that businesses can take to do this.
Artificial Intelligence may cause some jobs to be lost, but ultimately it will create more jobs and elevate humans, says futurist and technology entrepreneur Stafford Masie.
Masie, former Google SSA head and the innovator behind ThumbzUp and the Payment Pebble, was speaking at the official launch of a new digital skills and careers expo for South African youth, MyFuture 4.0, in Johannesburg yesterday. The expo, a first in South Africa, will help local youths to prepare for a digital future in which a number of traditional jobs will fall away and new jobs emerge.
Masie said: There is no such thing as a technology company or a technology sector – the lowest common denominator of everything now, is technology. It’s clear there is an unleashing of technology, but it’s not something that is going to take over humanity. It’s not something we should be scared of. It’s something we should embrace. The promise it holds is quite incredible.”
“While some jobs are being eradicated and threatened as a result of technology, he said, “That’s ok because the jobs a lot of people are doing today are not what humans should be doing. If a job is measured in efficiency and productivity, a machine will always outperform humans. Humans are meant for a higher purpose.”
Referring back to the agricultural revolution, he pointed out that automation had removed children from the workforce, taken people out of hard labor in the agricultural sector, and enabled more efficient food production. “The efficiency introduced into the agricultural sector as a result of technology means that humans do things that cannot be measured in efficiency and productivity in that sector. We now do things that ‘waste time’- like scientific research and artistic expression. That expansion delivered more jobs in the agricultural ecosystem than ever before.”
The fourth industrial revolution, characterized by AI, was likely to deliver similar benefits, he said.
“AI is plural – AI is not singular. It is not a thing, it is an orchestration of disparate species of intelligence. Next generation businesses will harness and orchestrate latent cognition,” he said. “Uber, for example, orchestrates disparate instruments of cognition such as spatial awareness and payment systems to deliver on a particular function.”
Masie noted that technology has a real impact when it is sensory, ubiquitous and no longer visible. Industries are being redefined because solutions no longer have a visual user interface, said Masie. “The future of jobs right now is in creating converged intelligent ecosystems. Don’t build beautiful mobile apps, talk about things that are sensory. The future of technology is when it disappears.”