Automation is a hot and also, controversial topic right now. If you were to condense every discussion about automation that has taken place for the last few years, you would arrive at a few basic questions.

  • How will automation affect emerging economies?
  • How can the leadership ensure that their citizens have the abilities to survive in an automated world?
  • What kind of skills will the average person need to remain employed in a world that is gradually replacing human labor with machines?

These are tough questions that have every policymaker out there at their wit’s end. Nobody wants a future where people will have to remain unemployed because of technological innovation, especially in countries where the young make up for more than half the population.

Pepper the humanoid robot
Pepper, Japanese humanoid robot

Automation has already claimed victims in some of the world’s leading economies. For instance, in India, leading IT services firm, Infosys, recently let go of 11,000 employees due to automation. Sadly, this is only the beginning as far as predictions go.

Experts agree that unemployment due to automation is a threat on the horizon and we’re losing time. In fact, in another 10 years, a number of current jobs will become redundant. The workplace is evolving faster than we can handle.

Skills for the future

It’s high time we started thinking about how we’re going to equip people with skills for the future. Currently, 85% of process oriented labor in developing nations is predicted to disappear. Now, couple this with the fact that automation costs will only drop further, cheap human labor starts to seem pointless. Making things worse is the fact that most millennials aren’t big fans of artisanal labor.

For instance, developing economies can focus on revamping technical skills education via polytechnic institutes. Of course, such institutions do exist, but, rarely do governments focus on developing them. So, now would be the perfect opportunity because it’ll be a long time before AI takes over this line of work as well.

App developers working on a project

Another key area that’s drawing interest with regard to “jobs of the future” discussions is “digital application”. All said and done, machines will still need humans to create them and this is where the software aspect comes into play.

For example, the Canadian government has already implemented plans to offer ‘coding’ as a subject in high school.

The drivers of disruption

The three main sources of global disruption happen to be IoT, Big Data, and AI. Big data from IoT devices provides machines with key insights about human behavior, which is then analyzed by AI to help make smart decisions.

Luckily, there are areas that still remain beyond the reach of AI and this includes social intelligence, perception, manipulation, and creativity. However, these areas require very particular skills and the workforce in developing economies isn’t equipped with such skills.

As a result, developing economies will face the worst of automation.

The only way to overcome this challenge is by implementing policies that further digital literacy and continuous learning.