To be AI ready, workforce needs re-skilling, say experts

To be AI ready, workforce needs re-skilling, say experts

By Siddharth Tiwari | NEW DELHI | 10 September, 2017

Once in the realm of imagination, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not just a reality now, but has taken markets by storm. With over 300 start-ups ushering the AI revolution in the country, India is emerging as a niche AI technology provider. However, like any other technology advancement, AI, too, is being looked at by many with deep apprehension that it can lead to job cuts. Amid the chaos and outcry due to both readiness and resistance, experts strongly believe that embracing AI will herald India into a world of “new possibilities”. Talking to The Sunday Guardian, industry insiders called for re-skilling or up-scaling of skills to ensure a smooth transition into this “new workplace ecosystem”.

“India is a great innovative AI hub from the production point of view. From the market point of view, this is now going to catch up. The overall re-alignment across all industries can come from two perspectives—learning to develop AI and learning to utilise the benefits of AI,” Ankita Saikia, Head Marketing Strategy & Alliances at Artivatic Data Labs, told The Sunday Guardian. AI, a scientific discipline rooted in computer science, mathematics, psychology, and neuroscience, creates machines that simulate human cognitive functions such as learning and problem-solving. Over the past few years, India has experienced tremendous impetus in technology related businesses and investments. As a result, AI is increasingly imbedded in Indians’ daily lives in communications, transportation, and medicine.Furthermore, with billions of people and tonnes of corresponding data, India is a very fertile market for applied AI.

Applied AI is a field where intelligence or information is coded using programming languages like Python and Java to solve real problems like quicker detection of breast cancer, content moderation on social media, analysing driving patterns to help determine the cause of an accident, etc.

“India is a very fertile market for applied AI and there is great deal of work going on across sectors, especially healthcare. We have a vast population with distinctive issues. There is a serious gap between service providers and the end beneficiaries. AI bridges that gap,” Manish Singhal, founding partner at Pi Ventures, a venture capital firm specialising in early-stage fund focused on artificial intelligence and machine learning, said.

Commenting on concerns over AI eating up jobs, Singhal said that any advancement in technology brings apprehensions and resistance along with it and “we need to manage it well”. He further pointed out that there is a huge demand and supply gap and that gives enough room to create new jobs and accommodate people. He stressed on the need to focus on re-skilling rather than resisting.

“Nobody is going to take away anyone’s job. When ATM machines came, cashiers in banks were paranoid that they might lose their jobs. But that didn’t happen. On the contrary, banking services expanded in our country. AI will add jobs in the longer run and people need to upscale their skills to avail these opportunities,” Singhal added. According to Vishal Bansal, co-founder of Zenatix Solutions that helps businesses save energy and cut down their electricity bills, humans are designed to adapt and evolve and this has been the driving force of the progressive 21st century. He believes that as AI spreads its wings in the country and the nature of jobs change, people will adapt to the new required ecosystem.

“Some jobs will become irrelevant just like it happened when the internet boom happened. But we evolved and today we can’t think of a workplace running without computers and internet connections. We will see similar developments in AI as well,” Bansal said. According to reports, by 2050, most organisational tasks will be handled by AI in areas such as education, healthcare, and financial services. While certain jobs will become obsolete, several new jobs will be added. Experts have unequivocally said that the advancement of AI will not replace humans as these are still machines that need humans to operate them.

Dr Charit Bhograj, a cardiologist and co-founder of Tricog Health Services that helps doctors make instant diagnoses of heart attacks and ensures treatment is not delayed, told The Sunday Guardian: “Machines can’t replace humans; they only make the work easier. In healthcare, AI is bridging the gap in doctor-to-patient ratio and also helping doctors in quicker and specialised diagnosis. But in the end, we will need a doctor after all to treat and advise patients. The personal touch of humans can’t be replaced.”

A report by IT and consulting firm Capgemini suggests that India leads in AI implementation with 58% of organisations embracing the technology at scale, followed by Australia, Italy and Germany with 49%, 44% and 42%, respectively. With initiatives like Digital India, Skill India, and Make in India already pushing technology advancement in India, a little re-working on certain policies keeping AI in mind will go a long way to utilise the optimum benefits of AI, say experts. “Going ahead, the government has to intervene and push AI. Certain policies need to be re-worked and the entire transition process has to be incentivised. For example, if we have to bring self-driven cars, then the Motor Vehicles Act has to be re-looked into,” Singhal said.Prakash Rao, Founding Member and Vice President, Multi-Process HR Outsourcing, believes that a healthy co-ordination between private players and government is imperative to make the most of the opportunity. He also suggested that India needs to comprehensively focus on accommodating displaced “human resource”. “The government is doing its bit and will do more. But the implementation of these initiatives needs to be faster because AI revolution is very fast paced,” he said. However, according to Ramya Joseph, founder and CEO of AI financial advisor Pefin, “It is unlikely that a centrally planned approach to skills development will be effective. Requirements are changing too rapidly for a bureaucratic structure to keep up with. What will help is greater communication between businesses, academia, and research so that adaptation and training can be invested in, and developed, as quickly as possible.”

 

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