DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION: Its Impact on the Workforce

Delivered during the Talking Points – AC US Embassy Talks
September 27, 2019 USLS Bacolod

We are living in the midst of a revolution – the Fourth Industrial Revolution – a digital revolution.

Human beings are now more connected than ever before. Through the Internet, using devices and services for work, for school, for personal information sharing, for practically all aspects of life.

Our parents made use of these good old typing machines. Today these useful typewriters have become a thing of the past. Like dinosaurs beside powerful computers which exponentially increased human productivity.

We spend time being tied down to wired telephones to communicate with others. Today we can place a call everywhere we are using our mobile phones – smart phones.
We used to wait for weeks, or months to receive a mail. Today it would only take seconds to send or receive an email.

If we say we will see a doctor, we mean that to be literal. But today telemedicine has bridged in real time – patients and doctors who are unable to meet.

We spend hours researching inside libraries to accumulate data or information. Today we Google it.

We buy things we need or want from a physical store. Today we can also get them online and pay for them online.
That is the power of digitization. The technical conversion of traditional to digital. Physical to virtual. Slow to fast. Old to new.

Digitalization is the process of digitization. Creating digital systems to impact on various industries, services and sectors of society.

Its total and overall effect is called digital transformation.
Let me share with you the major technological breakthroughs that make digital transformation possible.

BIG DATA and ANALYTICS – data discovery process using techniques and tools like mining useful information or insights from huge sets of data either structure or unstructured. This is enabled through exponential increase in both computing power and storage capacity. Imagine all the health records of the city over the last 10 years – analyzed to understand most common diseases and causes. Data about recidivism among young people over the last ten years to understand causes and develop intervention strategies.

INTERNET OF THINGS where everyday devices connected to the internet through sensors and computing power to monitor and manage actions, offering users greater influence over their environment. Think of lights that you can turn and off even without touching the switch. Think of a digital jacket which has thermal capacity and adjusts to the weather.

AUTOMATIC AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE which combining technology such as Robotics Process Automation or RPA, Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Have your heard of chatbots on Facebook Messenger answering your through chat.

CLOUD COMPUTING which delivers IT services hosted over the internet to transform compute resources into a utility. Everything is on cloud as they say.

Digital transformation will have significant impact on business, workforce, education, consumer behavior and our lifestyle. But today I will take this opportunity to highlight its impact on our workforce – in the skills that are required given the new ways of doing things, and its impact to our traditional working environment.

In the Philippines, the latest reports show – 9.8 million unemployed Filipinos. We are standing on the crossroads of opportunity and adversity. Whether we go and generate millions of jobs for the country or lag behind as among the countries with huge a labor mismatch – is up to us.

In the Education to Employment or E2E research of Mackinsey’, there are 75 million youth unemployed today. About 40 percent of employers surveyed – say a lack of skills is the main reason for entry-level vacancies. In the Philippines, the number are even worse. It could up to sixty percent of our graduates being without skills required to be hired for the first time.

We need to continue serious efforts instead of trifling around with the future of our country, or of our city.

We need skills. The World Economic Forum in its 2016 Future of Jobs Report identified the 10 important skills. Complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity and the rest of the skills make up for soft and non-technical skills. The challenge is how to teach these skills in traditional schools characterized with textbook information and typical classroom lectures.

Moving forward to the bigger picture – The International Telecommunication Union, a specialised agency of the United Nations that is responsible for issues that concern information and communication technologies believes there is a large skills gap emerging today. They are zeroing in on digital skills gap. With tens of millions of jobs opening up around the world for those with advanced digital skills – and a shortage of qualified people to fill the positions.

The ITU is sharing this digital skills continuum which is practically applicable to all industries. Digital skills are classified into basic, intermediate and advanced. Our goal is to be able to move a significant portion of our workforce from basic to advanced in order to be competitive with other economies.

In its latest Digital Skills Insights for 2019, the ITU Academy further consolidated the list to include soft skills and digital entrepreneurship, having identified the demand of industries over the next few years.

Basic Digital Skills – generic ICT skills required for nearly all jobs. They relate to the effective use of technology, which is necessary in most professions like web research, online communication, use of professional online platforms and digital financial services

Mid-level Digital Skills – these include digital graphic design and marketing, desktop publishing and social media management, both for job and entrepreneurship opportunities

Advanced digital skills – skills necessary to create, manage, test and analyse ICTs. They relate to technology development, including coding, software and app development, network management, machine learning, big data analysis, IoT, cybersecurity and blockchain technology

Soft skills – complementary to technical skills, these are skills necessary for all professionals to ensure collaborative and effective work in the digital economy. They include leadership, communication, teamwork and client focus, among others

Digital entrepreneurship – digital skills required by entrepreneurs, including online market research, strategic planning and business analysis, using financing and crowdfunding platforms, online marketing, online networking and establishing mentoring relationships.

Why are skills evolving? Because the nature or kind of jobs we have today are also evolving. Here is a Tholons list of Future Jobs, the word “Future” is simply an adjective here because most of these jobs are actually existing today.

A revolution disrupts the way we all do things. A revolution pushes all to step up the value chain. Skill. Reskill. Upskill our workforce. Tholons provide us with some insights how. But it all boils down to leaving behind our notion that traditional classroom lectures are enough.

The Fourth Industrial revolution is an age of disruption. It disrupts recruitment process, workplace ecosystem and creates more and more newer technology. As many jobs as will disappear or are made irrelevant due to new technology – these technologies will generate more jobs – but the question – will there people fit for the jobs?

Most experts say – Collaboration is the key. In their latest research on how countries can survive the advent of artificial intelligence or AI causing huge displacement of workers but creating new jobs requiring advanced digital skills – Mackinsey reinforced the need for collaboration. I like this model because it very realistic in identifying the stakeholders.

What else can we do – I believe and promote several strategies as solution to the digital skills gap based on years of research and discussion with stakeholders –

First – an improved quality apprenticeship program because industry today would like to take the lead in upskilling the talent in most countries.

Second – Digital Skills Strategy – the ITU recommends for all countries to have a digital skills strategy to move its workforce from basic to advanced digital skills.

Third – Experiential Learning – more non-traditional ways of leaching and learning outside the four walls of the classroom to allow students to experience actual industry of workplace environment.

Fourth – Conducive startup ecosystem – support to startups and students ho wish to take the path of entrepreneurship instead of employment, and to allow them an environment conducive for their ideas to grow into business models

Fifth – Building a strong brand for Filipino products and services – even as we create more jobs and as we upskill our workforce, we must promote the Filipino brand of services.

We are in the midst of a revolution filled with so much opportunity despite of all the many challenges.

In the words of Brahima Sanou, Director for Telecommunications Development Sector of the ITU – Let’s imagine a country where basic digital skills are prized, promoted and prioritized for all its people – integrated as one of the nation’s foundational skills alongside traditional literacy and numeracy skills. Imagine a country where all segments of the population can access news and information, communicate with friends and family, make everyday use of services related to e-health, e-government, digital finance, agro-tech, smart transportation – and benefit fully from immersion in a vibrant and global knowledge society. Imagine a people that has the requisite digital skills to be employable, productive, creative, and successful – societies where all our young people can develop basic skills and then progress to acquire intermediate and advanced levels of digital expertise – able to participate in emerging industry sectors and to start their own businesses.

Let’s us not leave this to our imagination – let us make this a reality. Welcome to the Fourth Industrial revolution!

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