A fresh report is full of stress upon a series of quick incentives to groom workforce with AI enabled future in mind. Thanks to premium technology and innovation crafted into it, automation is likely to send a great number among workers (in fact, thousands globally in initial wave itself) back home to consider other ways of churning out livelihood and given the scale, appropriate measures are needed to be taken to counter it urgently, in terms of up-skilling the staff (or simply say, to make them smarter). This is, in fact, what a report says that is published by committee in UK parliament.
Precisely, on AI, a select committee was set up by The House of Lords, which expresses dilemma at what is said to be “inertia” which affects the Britain’s pace of economic progress due to suboptimal digital skills (the place used to be the hub of industrial revolution) and in the same report, government is nudged to initiate quick steps to prepare favourable ground to enable workforce to upgrade their IT skill-set and to be at par with what AI puts forth and demands.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has did research as per which only 17% of UK workers show keenness in re-skilling themselves and which is dreadfully, far lower than the workforce surveyed across the world, which stands at around 38%.
Besides, Microsoft also pointed out that a great strength among businesses, say about 70%, feel down at the lack of cutting-edge digital skills with around 2-3rd of employees admitting to be devoid of skills needed for certain roles and responsibilities set in new framework driven by technology.
Making things worse is the survey conducted by Lloyds Bank which disclosed (in fact a shameful aspect) indicating that 19% among the UK’s population is found incapable to accomplish tasks as simple as using a web browser.
Taking a strong stand in the direction, national retraining scheme has been launched by the government, targeted towards professionally upgrading the UK citizens, in response to the massive tide of automation. Even though, the scheme has been put on ground in 6 different regions across the country, enabling around 3600 prospective candidates but in view of Lord’s Committee, such is not adequate still. They publish in the report, “The pace, scale and ambition of the scheme does not match the challenge facing many people working in the UK.”
Now, at the university of Southampton, there exists Wendy Hall, in the capacity of Computer Science Professor, who gave credence to the Lord’s finding and termed her country’s IT job preparedness as “nowhere near ready”. Now on the other side of economic and corporate sea, AI based systems spread rapidly and going by the reports, where $326 million were put into AI in the year 2015, this amount has swelled to $173 billion by 2019. As such, systems in many industries have gone automated, such as logistics, healthcare, agriculture, financial services and banking, retail etc, to name a few.
Further, Covid-19 pandemic has also pushed such industries strongly towards the shores of sheer automation and now things stand at far different level that even the petty tasks of data entry, accountancy and even the manual tasks in factories are going to be deeply inundated by premium technology.
Michael Wooldridge, a Computer Science professor at the University of Oxford and among the prominent contributors in the report compiled by select committee, testifies: ”Certainly, some jobs will be lost, and many more will be created. The difficult is that the jobs created are not necessarily in the same place as those lost”.
He further adds, “It is not an AI-specific problem, technology evolves at a rapid pace, and this is about technology skills generally. Retraining and up-skilling are issues that will unwind over the next decades”.
Interestingly, the new report is completed and slipped into public domain just after a couple of years when recommendations were made to UK government in a bid to ensure that AI based frameworks should be developed in a responsible way. As a result, from then onwards, numerous actions have been put on ground to secure an ethical bunch of standards in AI technology and an instance to this aspect, can be the setting up of various advising groups like the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI), a move hailed by the committee.
Now here, transparency is to be maintained and popular trust and support needs to be garnered among public so as to be an overall success. This is chiefly because of the fact that commoners need to be made aware about the utilization of data output by them in daily life, by the AI algorithms and failing to do so, would just jeopardize momentum of depth automation. At this point, it is disappointing to note that UK’s tech pursuit is a bit tainted, as a survey was conducted by the department of Business Strategy (BEIS) last year which yielded a gloomy picture as only 28% among those, placed their trust in AI (pretty disappointing in today’s competitive world!!).
As a result, the committee asks the government to take steps to enlighten people about the hidden worth of such new technology and how their data will be utilized in meeting the objectives aimed at smart governance.
Besides, committee report also cajoled the government to appoint a dedicated authority for proper and organized implementation of AI. To this effect, in 2017, the post of Chief Data Officer was perceived to overlook proper implementation of data, but till now, the big wooden throne is still empty.
Further, for the purpose of holistic digital transformation, yet another post was thought for, which was of Government Chief Digital Officer (GCDO) but here also, no clue about the whereabouts of this official is in sight.
Emphasizing the role of experienced and worldly-wise officer, Prof Wooldridge explains, “In a time like this, when things keep changing so quickly, it is absolutely essential that we have very clear leadership around these issues”.
Now, in the absence of proper leadership, UK is likely to fall behind in the ever coveted contest for AI as no astute planning and implementation is in sight.
However, glancing over the global perspective does give some respite as it is seen that UK ranks 7th when one considers AI operating environment and research. Prof Wooldridge downplays UK’s capability in AI as not much as compared to what world progresses at, which is because other countries are fully devoted to technology and then Brexit would also undermine the sheen that UK otherwise had for cream talent, from around the world. Professor professes, “I feel very comfortable about the quality of the technology we have, and the talent base for AI in the UK. But if you graduate in AI from a leading university, you could go anywhere and it’s our attractiveness as a home for international talent that I worry about”.
Truly friends, there appears to be a shortage of AI and other leading technology skills in UK making it a rich ground for skilled and qualified workforce from around the world, especially India to try their luck out there.