How to achieve inclusive growth in the Fourth Industrial Revolution?
“Achieving Inclusive Growth in the Fourth Industrial Revolution” was the core theme of the World Economic Forum (WEF) at the Annual Meeting of New Champions 2017 in Dalian, China between 27 to 29 June.
More than 2,000 participants from over 80 countries attended this meeting to explore how we can achieve inclusive growth in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and create new opportunities for economic, social and personal development. The Head of Asia and I represented Sia Partners in participating in this discussion and stimulating debates.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution (The Fourth) is a new era that builds and extends the impact of digitization in new and unanticipated ways. It is an environment in which disruptive and innovative technologies and trends, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, virtual reality (VR), Internet of Things (IoT), autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing is developing.
According to Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum and author of The Fourth Industrial Revolution, the new age is differentiated by the speed of technological breakthroughs, the extensiveness of scope and the tremendous impact of new systems. When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. It is impacting every aspect of life from business to society, to government and even to our own identity.
We can foresee that the Fourth has the potential to raise global income levels, increase the efficiency and improve our quality of life. However, many concerns and questions have been raised by the society such as:
How do we truly include and benefit everyone equally around the world?
How can we ensure technological change is human-centred?
How do we reshape the lower-skilled laborer to cope with this disruption?
How can we incorporate positive human values into the technologies changing the world?
Mr. Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, highlighted one of the key problems, developing/emerging countries, such as Africa, some South East Asia countries and Latin America unable to catch up to the developed countries. These developing countries are currently not part of the Global economy. Thus, it is important to implement a social strategy and policy for federal to local in order to help the local communities to regenerate themselves via communities learning and supporting to each other. Technology can be an enabler to allow easier and cheaper access for small enterprises and individuals to the advanced world and Global markets such as high-speed broadband, cloud computing. The regulatory system will be expected to reform in order to encourage the small new players to enter in the Global market. As a result, the real benefit will be a level playing field which will allow more small players and individuals including developing countries to catch up faster.
DiDi Chuxing is a disruptive technology company and business model running in China by adopting a sharing economy. The company provides ride sharing transportation service to approximately 400 million users across over 400 cities in China. Ms Jean Liu, President of Didi Chuxing, shared her vision of the company by maximizing the benefit of technology to serve two purposes. One is for improving the utilization rate of the cars, road space, and energy. The other is to increase the domestic economy by allowing individuals to earn a second income. Most of the employees are part time drivers who are new graduates, housewives and coal miners. In particular, these coal miners are about to lose their jobs soon. After 5 years’ growth, Didi is the largest ride sharing platform in the world which includes the private cars, taxis, minus buses, buses, and bicycles. It can achieve inclusive growth by providing fair access for anyone to be hired by this mobility service irrespective of income level.
Mr Marc Benioff, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Salesforce.com Inc emphasized that inclusive growth means quality. Out of these disruptive technologies, the biggest shift is AI. The growth of AI technology has developed much faster than expected. This includes machine learning, deep learning, new objects and vision detection. There is no doubt that the impact of AI to our life and society is dramatic. The most critical factor for inclusive growth means to include everybody from all genders, racial and sexual orientation. Everyone has an equal opportunity to participate in this growth and receives equal pay. Ironically, one of the WEF reports indicated that 170 years is needed to have equal gender pay equality across the world.
Another important element is to reshape the education and learning model in the world to acquire the new knowledge and skill for taking up future jobs and engaging new technologies such as AI.
Especially in China, India, and Singapore, the education system always focuses on the academic track not only in schools but also in tertiary education. As per Mr Tharman, we need to think how to develop the talent and skills of individuals which are relevant to the real world and the up and coming opportunities in the market. The education system will be required to be more flexible and blended between academic and practical. The re-investment for continuous learning should at different points of life. The Singapore government has launched a new initiative called “Skillsfuture” to sharpen the focus on skills and employment to ensure competitiveness and quality jobs for Singaporeans over the long term.
In the United States, Mr Marc has proposed a 5 million apprenticeship scheme to President Trump to retrain people to learn new skills in order to enable people to remain employable in the future. Furthermore, he uses Salesforce as a platform to create more jobs. This allows the company to train people to create, develop and administer the platform. Similarly, DiDi also uses its platform to create opportunities for many people to earn the second incomes and learn new technology through the process of operation.
It is without a doubt that these technological breakthroughs will transform our lives in many ways and reshape our economic, social, cultural, and human environments. I feel that the potential upsides more than the threats as the benefits can provide the people around the world to have more time enjoying life, better health, and better living. Technology should empower people rather than replace them. The impact of the Fourth will run much broader and deeper. It is critical that policy-makers, business leaders, technology pioneers and experts continue to lead the Fourth whilst enabling the world to leverage the shift in disruptive technologies, innovations, and trends.