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Impact of artificial intelligence: Threat or new opportunity?

It is now abundantly evident in the post-Covid era that things will not be as they were and embracing technology and embracing automation are essential for survival in the new normal world.

We also observe that there is hardly a day in Bangladesh where a politician, business leader or civil servant does not speak about the fourth industrial revolution and the effects of artificial intelligence on our economy.

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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also said on December 11, 2021 that the government is preparing the country to harness the potential presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) to drive economic growth to the desired level.

Now, the debate that has been going on for so long is whether artificial intelligence will take jobs away from humans or will it create more jobs?

When the first industrial revolution used water and steam to mechanize production, people thought people would lose their jobs and machines would replace humans, but in reality that didn’t happen.

The same goes for the time of the second industrial revolution when the introduction of electricity created mass production.

During the era of the third industrial revolution with the emergence of the internet, computers and electronics, there was a common saying at the time that the computer would eliminate all jobs.

But that didn’t happen, rather computing and the internet created millions of jobs.

It is only in Bangladesh that there are now over 20 lakh people who are directly involved in IT and ITES professions and there are at least another 2 million earning their lives through technology.

Even in Bangladesh, we see that thousands of people earn their living by providing car sharing services, food delivery services, working as e-commerce delivery person, call center agent, learning platform online, telemedicine and many people.

Additionally, the use of technology has improved rural life, enabling villagers to market their products online, learn remotely, access citizen services through the Union Digital Center, and more. ‘others.

It is therefore quite obvious that with the industrial revolution, jobs are not lost but rather transformed in their nature.

Likewise, artificial intelligence will have a major impact on jobs in fields such as engineering, law, medicine and even journalism.

This will lead to a different kind of job creation that will focus more on creativity and emotions than just coding or data analysis.

Ready-to-wear is the main sector whose labor market is expected to be impacted by the adoption of artificial intelligence.

About 80% of the 4.4 million people working in this sector are women.

According to a joint study by A2i and the ILO (International Labor Organization), 60% of the 2.7 million people employed in this sector could lose their jobs by 2041.

Although automation may lead to a large number of layoffs, it will also inject many new jobs into the labor market.

The same is true for the banking sector.

A study by the Bangladesh Institute of Bank Management (BIBM) found that 29% of banks use AI-based solutions in certain contexts such as cash counting, safe deposit management, data center management, KYC assessment, etc.

But the biggest challenge of managing AI in financial services is the scarcity of trained and qualified human resources.

Lack of skilled labor is a big concern to effectively manage banks’ AI platforms.

About 67% of banks agreed that the lack of skilled labor is a major concern for properly maintaining the AI ​​platform in banks.

Similar studies were also found for other sectors such as food processing, manufacturing, health services, education and other service sectors.

However, it also ushers in a new era of employment scope, as we will need highly skilled engineers and technicians.

Not only that, countries like Japan, many countries in Europe, and the United States are also looking for skilled engineers to reap the greatest benefits as 4IR pioneers.

A JICA statistic indicates that there will be a shortage of 425,000 engineers in Japan alone by 2025.

Bangladesh can take advantage of this situation by sending qualified engineers to Japan and also through an offshore development service model.

The same pattern can be done for countries like UK, Netherlands, Switzerland, Lithuania, Estonia, Denmark as these countries are actively seeking qualified engineers to take on the 4IR challenge.

But honestly, our education system still lags far behind the expectations of providing these skilled resources.

We see that there is still a huge gap between the academic curriculum and industry expectations.

Tripartite dialogue and a strong action plan must be launched immediately between government, industry and academia to alleviate this challenge.

Finally, we must recognize that the impact of 4IR and AI is rapidly approaching us and we are undoubtedly lacking in preparation in several areas as well.

All ministries, government agencies, the private sector and commercial bodies must work together to prepare Bangladesh to ride the wave.

The pandemic has accelerated the pace of dependence on technology and it is high time that Bangladesh needs to ensure that we are fully prepared for the challenges.

The author is Managing Director of Dream71 Bangladesh and Director of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS).