Image Credit: Developing a workforce for the future | GULF NEWS

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Saturday January 20, 2018 - 10:33:54 in Maqaallo by nur yare
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    Image Credit: Developing a workforce for the future | GULF NEWS

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As innovation-driven disruptions become widespread, it is essential to ensure that we are ready to engage with a future that is full of promises and uncertainties

Way back in 1589 William Lee, a young British clergyman, was denied patent for his knitting machine by Queen Elizabeth I due to her concerns about the loss of livelihood of thousands who used conventional knitting tools. In the following 428 years, many new technologies and disruption have dawned, revolutionising the way of learning, earning and doing things, but the fears of technology taking our employment have not really faded.

The simple truth is this: Neither the disruptions are new nor are the fears about them, but as the time-gap between an invention and its commercial application gets smaller, more and more people adopt newer ways of consumption. So the awareness increases, which multiplies the fears and uncertainties about conventional jobs and vocations. It is true that every new innovation and technology disrupts, impacting jobs and employment, but the innovations and technologies behind those ideas, in fact, create more work and multiple ways of engagement that cannot be imagined while thinking in a linear fashion and working within conventional silos. But, for sure, every new shift forces us out of our comfort zones to know more, learn more and adapt more.

 

 

Take the example of smartphone — a communication tool, which evolved from the old telephone. There are millions more phones in circulation today than there were when only the landline existed. According to one prediction, there will be more mobile devices in the world than human population by 2020. While the landline phones are almost dead, the massive proliferation of smartphones has led to more innovations and technologies, and created millions of jobs worldwide in design, productions, distribution, sales and after-sales service of these smart devices. History is witness to innumerable examples of similar phenomenon where shift in technology and rethink about its application has opened up unimaginable possibilities. One major development has been the creation and distribution of content via smartphones.

Today, as a result of convergence, digitisation and WiFi connectivity, these smart devises are getting even smarter, democratising the process of content creation. Consequently, institutional and formal media are in flux to adapt this new mode of production, delivery and consumption. This phenomenon is not only creating new jobs but transforming the roles within existing jobs. A journalist today does not only write, he or she makes videos, shoots pictures, updates web pages and is constantly on social media to stay updated. So, up-skilling and re-skilling are indispensable to stay relevant in the media job market. But media is not the only industry that is experiencing this change. The coming together of finance and technology in the form of Fintec is perhaps a bigger disruption that is impacting jobs in finance, banking and retail in an unprecedented way. (Fintec combines technology and innovation in order to compete with traditional financial methods in the delivery of financial services). Similarly, cryptography-based democratised ledger of online transactions, commonly known as Blockchain is proving even a bigger influence on business and commerce. (Blockchain is a digital ledger that aids in recording transactions, agreements and contracts in the safest way possible.)

Within the local context, Dubai Land Department became the world’s first government entity, in October 2017, to adopt Blockchain technology, using a smart database that chronicles, archives and makes available all real estate contracts, including lease registrations, and links them with the Dubai Electricity & Water Authority and the telecommunications system. With all the data available on secure interconnected servers, all government processes and services can be delivered in real time anywhere in the world. This seamless, efficient and paperless process is one example of how Dubai is getting smarter.

Blockchain is not the only technology Dubai is adopting to transform its services. Digitisation, artificial intelligence, automation, robotics, 3-D printing, Nano Technology, Internet of Things and the widespread use of data and disruptive innovations are redefining the way citizens will learn, earn and live. A quick browse through the UAE’s and Dubai’s future policies and frameworks reveals a fascinating journey into a world of opportunities. Dubai Future Foundation, set up for this purpose, works with the best minds in the world to develop a technologically driven infrastructure and prepare an innovative, multitasking and critically thinking work force to engage with the future.

While the disruptive innovations like Blockchain are affecting jobs in traditional areas like logistics, accounting, financial sectors, these disruptions are also bringing in new jobs, opportunities and a whole new mindset. The future of work, and more specifically how the potential of young people can be leveraged in achieving the economic growth and social dynamism, will depend on how good we are at harnessing the technology and how quick we are in engaging with the change.

In the UAE, while there is a massive push from the government towards innovation, entrepreneurship and adoption of new technologies, efforts from other stakeholders — including industry, academia and community — are not matching the government push. A need-based and durable public-private partnership to create a common sustainable strategy based on knowledge and capabilities will provide a long-term framework to engage with a future that is full of promise but ridden with uncertainties.

Partly due to the lack of comprehension of the full potential of disruptive changes and partly due lack of alignment between industry priorities and academic focus, we are behind in realising the potential. Besides academic degrees, there is an urgent need for more vocational education, and any new effort in curriculum review and design should take into account the impact of technology on disruption of jobs and employability. Investment in digital technologies as well as focus on communication technology and inculcating a culture of life-long learning are critical in creating, nurturing and sustaining a future-ready workforce.




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