There was a time in my life when I staunchly believed that the use of a cellphone was best limited to receiving and making calls.
For me, a cheap black cellphone did the job – not interested into venturing into the smart technology.
In my mind, anything else other than that amounted to intrusion. I literally barred myself from involvement in WhatsApp, cellphone banking, group chat, video calling or anything of that sort.
But what would I do today without a smartphone – a technology that has made my life much easier, wherever I am?
This major change took some convincing by colleagues and friends, who put it like this: “You either join the revolution or be left out in the periphery of global development.”
Their preparedness to take me by hand and teach me the ropes made such a huge difference.
Today, I have developed much interest in technological advancement, because I am convinced that the next phase for global survival will require intimate knowledge and a heavy dose of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).
Young people – the same age as my sons or younger – are now my best teachers.
According to robotics experts Antoni Grau and Zhuping Wang, one of the biggest fears people have relating to the new technologies “is that the robots and the artificial intelligence will replace the human factor in work – leading to ‘technological unemployment’”.
This, they argue, “is not the first time that people face the technological progress as a threat for their jobs”.
In the 19th and 20th centuries – when another major wave of technological progress took place, similar fears had arisen.
“But they had not been proven right – technological achievements of these centuries finally drove to the creation of new jobs,” said Grau and Wang.
Fears that automation, digitisation, machines and robots will lead to the end of work as we know it, will always linger.
As was the case with my fear for the smartphone. training, skilling and reskilling of employees in new technologies is what will ultimately mitigate against future job losses.
Clerks, receptionists and mineworkers can be trained – in line with the 4IR – to do their jobs better and efficiently.
Adapting to technological advancement and automation is what we should be all adapting to in surviving changes ahead, which have become a reality.
According to experts, routine jobs with a high volume of tasks related to information exchange, sales, data management, manual work, product transfer and storage, construction and office work, are more exposed to automation.
They maintain that construction, manufacturing, wholesale and retail are the professional sectors expected to be highly automated by 2030.
Addressing the two-day annual future of work 4IR Dialogue in Pretoria, Prof Tinyiko Maluleke, vice-chancellor and principal of Tshwane University of Technology, could not have put it better.
“The race to be followed by students seeking a particular set of skills can no longer be solely crafted by the academia in its ivory towers, without the input of industry.
“The time has come for more constant, more structured and more robust forms of engagement between all the role players – institutions of higher learning, public and private sector.
“This is a new dance waiting to be danced between industry, universities, government and society.
“The embrace has been slow, often erratic, sometimes hesitant, with missteps being there along the way.
“The whole society will have to join the dance if our students must find jobs or make jobs when they grow up. The required dance is that which will shape the job market from now.”
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