Technology has continued to evolve. From the first generation (1G), which dealt with analogue voice to 2G, which was essentially digital voice to 3G with focus on data; 4G on mobile broadband to 5G, which was designed to connect everything and everyone, so have come what is known as merging technologies. Artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), blockchain and others are some emerging technologies. While technologies have provided solutions to human challenges over the years, there are fears that AI would replace jobs, writes LUCAS AJANAKU.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has pledged commitment to driving the deployment and adoption of emerging technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, Blockchain, Robotics and Virtual Reality (VR), FinTech, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and telemedicine, to stimulate greater contribution of the sector.
“For us as a country to reap the full benefits of all these emerging technologies in ways that further spur growth in our national economy, NCC prioritises the need to improve and expand broadband infrastructure and the deployment of new technology such as 5G. Our efforts in diligently driving this will facilitate the actualisation of the set targets in the Federal Government’s digital economy policy,” Executive Vice Chairman/CEO, NCC, Prof Garba Danbatta, said.
According to him, with the rapid digital transformation happening through the telecom sector, the country will be in a better position to create an alternate economy for diversification, innovation and creativity in e-commerce and digital entrepreneurship, thus empowering a significant number of the populace to become self-reliant and self-employed.
Like the NCC, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has created a National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR), which, it said, is one of its special purpose vehicles (SPVs) to promote research and development on emerging technologies and their practical application in areas of national interest.
The centre, a state-of-the-art facility, along with its modern digital fabrication laboratory (FabLab), is co-located in the same building complex with the Office for Nigerian Digital Innovation (ONDI), at Abuja.
NCAIR as a digital innovation and research facility is focused on AI, Robotics and Drones, IoT and other emerging technologies, aimed at transforming the digital economy, in line with the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS).
NCAIR said it is also focused on creating a thriving ecosystem for innovation-driven entrepreneurship (IDE), job creation and national development.
However, sack fever has gripped virtually everyone, no thanks to these emerging technologies. From front desk officers, cashiers, drivers and translators, the fear of losing jobs to AI is real, especially with the emergence of Chat GPT on the stage.
Investment bank Goldman Sachs had predicted that 300 million jobs would be lost or degraded by the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI).
The World Economic Forum also found out that the global economy will shed 14 million jobs over the next five years as the economy weakens and companies boost the adoption of AI technologies.
Tidio, a customer service platform offering live chat, survey has shown that more people are open to the idea of incorporating AI into their lives. They do not mind AI taking over tasks or being involved in decision-making.
A report by Digital PR and Content Specialist at Tidio, Matt Baranowski, showed that nearly 69 per cent of college graduates believe AI could take their job or make it irrelevant in a few years.
Graduates are the ones most afraid of losing their jobs due to AI development. About 68.5 per cent of them fear being replaced by AI, compared to just 55 per cent of other respondents.
Cashiers, drivers, and translators are among the jobs most likely to be replaced by AI according to the research.
For cashiers (63 per cent of respondents), drivers (51 per cent), and translators (42 per cent) were named as the professions most likely to be taken over by AI technology. About 25 per cent of respondents also believe customer service representatives and warehouse workers are next in line.
The report also showed that more than 45 per cent of people have a positive attitude towards AI taking control of the economy.
Some claim that AI could prevent corruption and improve the economy. About 45per cent of respondents want AI to adjust fiscal policy and the budget of their country. Still, opinions are highly polarised. Nearly 29per cent think it’s a terrible idea.
More than 60 per cent of respondents would use a self-driving AI taxi during heavy traffic, underscoring the fact that a lot of faith is placed on AI when it comes to transportation and logistics. More than a half of respondents would not mind taking a self-driving taxi (60 per cent) or having AI manage air traffic (57per cent).
The report showed that people are seven times more worried about the negative impact of AI on the job market than fair treatment of robots.
According to 32 per cent of the survey respondents, robot rights-similar to human rights or animal rights-is a topic that shouldn’t elicit attention.
On information dissemination, almost 78 per cent of respondents are convinced that AI will be used to spread misinformation.
Apart from the fear of AI taking away jobs (42 per cent of respondents) or being used by criminals (51 per cent), respondents are concerned about the misuse of AI technology to spread misinformation. Some 78 per cent strongly believes this will be the main AI threat. By comparison, only three per cent believe that AI will take revenge on humanity.
Men place significantly more trust in AI technology than women. They are about twice as likely to have an AI robot operate on them or teach their children. They are also less concerned about potential threats posed by the technology.
Male respondents are 20 per cent more willing to interact with robots and AI
Existing robot and AI representations from fiction and real life are more appealing to men than women. After the use of a range of examples, respondents were asked if they were willing to interact with the selected robots. On average, 65per cent of male respondents answered yes, but only 45 per cent of women did so.
According to a widely-commented study on the future of employment, known as the Oxford Study, about 47per cent of total US employment is at risk due to rapid computerisation.
As Alana Semuels from Time notices, many people of colour and low-wage workers lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She pointed out that they were primarily, “cashiers, food-service employees, and customer service representatives, which are among the 15 jobs most threatened by automation.” Now, they have problems with getting employed again.
Some 65per cent of respondent suspect they could lose their jobs to AI in the next few years; and nearly 79 per cent believe that rapid automation is an important issue that people should be particularly concerned about.
The fact is that certainly, there will be job disruption because what’s going to happen is robots will be able to do everything better than human beings.
Tido, as a company that develops AI chatbots for the ecommerce sector, said it is also aware of its contribution to the changes in the job market. Customer service representatives are one of the top positions for professions that may soon become obsolete.
Cashiers, drivers, and translators are popular jobs that are already becoming gradually automated. Self-service checkouts, autonomous trucks, and real-time translation software are part of modern day reality. It shouldn’t be surprising that the majority of respondents-63per cent and 51per cent predict that cashiers and drivers are the jobs most likely to be replaced by technology.
However, police officers, doctors, lawyers have been voted professions that will survive the AI revolution. Professions associated with creativity appear to be even less vulnerable to the disruptive effects of AI technology on the job market. Artists and musicians were selected by almost 39 per cent and 36 per cent of respondents as the jobs least likely to be taken over by artificial intelligence.
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While AI is playing an increasingly important role in law or healthcare, AI and robots tend to play intermediate roles between experts and clients or patients.
Grace, a robotic “nurse” created by Hanson Robotics, is still more of a receptionist for hospitals rather than a real nurse. And the majority of patients would feel uncomfortable around her anyways, which brings us to the next part of our study.
Former President, Nigerian Computer Society, Prof Adesina Sodiya, believes AI will take jobs but would also create jobs.
“Even where people are saying IT is going to take their jobs; robots are going to take their jobs, it’s also creating other opportunities and in our drive for digital transformation, we are really not there yet and that’s why we are not benefitting immensely from what’s going on.
“There are so many organisations that are still being run manually. And because of that, the ability to use digital for economic development is still challenged,” Sodiya said.
The job loss malaria notwithstanding, the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) President, Gbenga Adebayo, said opportunities actually exist to create jobs in the ICT space in the country.
“If you look at what’s happening in other parts of the world, the biggest job creator is actually the digital economy. That’s where you have fintechs, virtual trading, virtual markets; you have the likes of Jumia and Konga and the rest of them. These are virtual markets. We have what is called the home office. People work from home digitally; banking is going digital. If you look at all of that, what the government has to do is to provide the platform for it to thrive. Not that the government will go directly to create digital employment; that’s not what we expect.
“But the government should give the platform for digital trade to thrive; encourage young entrepreneurs; encourage digital natives to do what they want to do; give them access where they need to fund, give them access, when they need the enabling environment, give it to them.
“You cannot have a digital economy if you don’t have access to data, especially if you don’t have a resilient network.That means we need to look at infrastructure, particularly energy, remember that telecoms, on account of the activities of government agencies sealing infrastructure, in an attempt to extract revenue have to stop. Such actions must be seen as criminal actions. For any government agency to go and seize telecom sites in the name of collecting tax; that should be seen as criminal,” Adebayo had said in response to President Bola Tinubu’s one million digital jobs target.
Sodiya said there are limitless opportunities in the digital space to create jobs. The youths are eager, many of them are going to commit crimes because they do not have jobs, they do not have enough things to satisfy their quest.
“There are so many opportunities in IT. It depends on the interest of the government, it depends on the people that are working with them (the government); it depends on the people that are coming up with these suggestions. If they truly understand how to create jobs on the digital space, the opportunities are there. Because of the development in IT, there are so many opportunities that are coming up. If you have to go into building websites for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), helping them to promote their businesses, using social media because people are now experts in social media, so there are opportunities, it’s just requires some basic soft skills, skills that you don’t need to go to the university to acquire; when you don’t want to be doing some researches; just the ability to learn some things by yourself.
“And if you also want to talk about another level of app development, our people that have made breakthroughs all over the world are bringing a lot of funds into this country, so, the opportunities are there. If you go into the area of data science, being able to make projections, many organisations abroad now are looking for data scientists that will work remotely because data science is about being able to discover knowledge that can make organisations to plan very well and have competitive advantage,” he had said.
Project Management Institute (PMI) has laso assured the youth that the invention and usage of CHATGPT by organisations will not take their jobs.
Its Youth Lead, Sub-Saharan Africa, PMI, Joanna Baidu, said arguments around job loss to AI have gained prominence since the emergence of CHATGPT.
Baidu said: “Concerns around the use of AI, from its potential misuse and ethical implications to the balance of innovation vs disruption, have been swirling since ChatGPT went mainstream. There is great unease at the thought of AI replacing jobs.
“Students across various educational institutions have good reasons to be anxious. According to the Institute of the Future, 85per cent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 have not been invented yet! While it is easy to speculate about the types of jobs automation will make obsolete, it is with no certainty that we can make any assumptions.
“There is no denying that AI will profoundly impact the future of work. Tech innovations of the past decade have already made bank tellers, cashiers, telemarketers, and travel agents relics of the past. “Generative AI holds the potential to take over segments of marketing, copywriting, design, customer support, legal work, etc. It remains aware of its limitations, though, and believes that “jobs that require a high degree of creativity or interpersonal skills are less likely to be replaced by AI. These skills are innate to project managers.”
PMI’s Talent Gap predicted an increase in the number of jobs requiring project management-oriented skills from higher demand due to economic growth and retirement rates. These trends will create a global need for 25 million new project professionals by 2030. If the roles are not filled, it could result in a possible loss of up to $345.5 billion in global gross domestic product (GDP).
Baidu said: “Regardless of which way the pendulum swings and which jobs AI swallows, it is prudent that the youth commit to lifelong learning and upskilling. Joining a professional association is strongly recommended for students and early career professionals. Staying informed about trends, access to learning resources, and being intentional about professional development will give the youth the head start to prepare for the future of work. Power or soft skills are one of the most essential skills a membership can help you sharpen. Being a member of an association opens avenues to volunteer. One can step into multiple “official” roles, such as youth ambassador and student coordinator, which will help develop power skills.
“Having real-world experience using power skills to accomplish goals or overcome obstacles gives one a tremendous edge when job-hunting. There are associations or organisations that cater to nearly every type of profession.”
Baidu explained that at PMI, student members enjoy the same valuable benefits afforded to practitioners. Student members receive digital downloads of the latest PMBOK Guide, certification discounts, and access to tools and resources such as PMI’s Career Navigator, which supports career progression by creating a personalised plan. Student members also gain access to networking opportunities through various events and activities and instantly join a network of over 450,000 project professionals worldwide.
According to reports, ChatGPT has had more airtime than the world’s most renowned celebrity. Its arrival has sparked questions and concerns that some did not even think to ask, including if it is a threat to our critical thinking skills.