Fourth Industrial Revolution and Pakistan Take it as an opportunity

Fourth Industrial Revolution

Fourth Industrial Revolution and Pakistan

Take it as an opportunity

Mujahid Mustaqeem

When the first, second and third industrial revolutions took place, people in many countries thought that the arrival of the computer and internet would claim many jobs. However, all three, in fact, turned out to have created job opportunities for the masses across the globe over the years. So the fourth industrial revolution, popularly known as the process of automation, will rather create jobs for millions of people, the only need being getting to know the latest technologies and re-skilling of workers. IN the wake of this, Pakistan needs a robust national policy to support application of big data, blockchain, artificial intelligence, robotics and the internet of things. This will add value to the country’s industrial and economic competitiveness and connect to the digitally-enabled global value chain.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is not the future; it is already taking place with wide connectivity through the internet, the advent of Programmable Logic Controllers, and the use of robots in industrial manufacture.  

There is no question that the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) will bring massive upheaval to people everywhere, and its promise of massive productivity improvements has business and government leaders salivating in anticipation. They expect that huge capital investments will garner even larger returns—and it seems that they are correct. Executives, shareholders and politicians rejoice but the majority of the people impacted have little input.

And now with the 4IR looming, both parties must deal with the implications of their broken relationship. Business leaders are tempted to implement massive automation upgrades through robots, artificial intelligence (AI), and the internet of things (IoT) technologies, but are concerned about how to practically get it done.

Part of that concern stems from the need to put those technologies into spaces physically occupied by the very same employees they intend to eliminate—what reason do these people have to cooperate with these initiatives?

Rather than cooperating, the workforce entrenches itself against management by threatening work stoppages, passively resisting by failing to follow instructions, or even actively sabotaging new projects.

Both sides find themselves facing the need to adapt and overcome, or risk fading away as other organizations overtake them. What is to be done?

Two things must be accomplished for the world to realize the full potential of a new industrial revolution.1_yiisqGePOtzU0VxzR3srcQ

There must be a good working relationship between business leaders and their working-class employees. Much reconciliation is needed in most large organizations but new, emerging ones must make this a priority as well.

Second, technology upgrades must actually be implemented. There are many theoretical use cases and a limited number of success stories available now.

But transitioning from what is theoretically possible, and things that have been done on a limited basis, into scalable technologies that are feasible to implement, is a big task.

Who, then, are the people we should look to as leaders in this process? Which group is best equipped to lead the way?

Clearly, cooperation is a prerequisite to success, but each group has an area of expertise and responsibility that it must focus on. Neither will be successful in its area without the other and the entire project will bog down, and possibly fail completely, if just one piece of the process breaks down.

The hostile relationship between the two parties is the more foundational issue and must be seen as a pre-eminent one. Because the business leaders hold power, it must be they who accept leadership in improving the situation.5ebf3e4a02b896237f896f12f027e530

Excellent leadership by those in power begins with taking a genuine interest in those under their charge—choosing to bring good to them insofar as they are able to sustainably do so.

This represents a significant departure from how most executives see their industrial workers and will take serious effort on the part of the managers to change their thinking and habits in this area.

The obvious solutions that have typically been presented in scenarios like this are for executives to give their workforce more wages, breaks, holiday time, benefits, etc, but those are very poor places to start, and are often not even possible, as when a business is already strapped for cash or other resources.

But the real issue is that they miss the heart of the problem, namely that workers see managers and executives as disinterested and possibly downright hostile towards them.

Business leaders must genuinely choose to care for their workforce and take definitive steps to re-train their thought patterns and habits until they routinely and automatically make the good of their workforce a key ingredient in every decision they make.

If any positive relationship is to be maintained for the long term, this must be done regardless of whether the workforce has done anything special to earn such goodwill from the management.

Certainly, employees who are counterproductive or toxic to the workplace culture must be removed, but managers should show patience in light of the relational context they find themselves in.

Often the best workers are the ones who are most taken advantage of, so managers must make special efforts to identify these employees and promote their well-being.

When workers realize that their interests are being cared for by their leaders, they become free to make a choice of their own: Do they continue to fight for every scrap of personal benefit they can get out of their employer? Or do they respond with generosity and choose to look for ways to bring good to their company through their own hard work and creativity?

Certainly, the company hopes that they choose the latter path but the workforce, too, stands to benefit from this option. The community of workers will find their workplace to be a far more pleasant place when everyone is looking out for the good of everyone else.

Friendship, loyalty and creativity will naturally result—things that everyone enjoys but also things whose natural side effects include business success.

So, as long as they receive the support of management, the workforce will eventually choose the latter path. Although change may take some time, as long as management remains committed to the good of the workforce, the culture will change for the better. As the workforce’s attitude changes, they will begin experimenting with ideas they believe will benefit the organization. They must be given the freedom to try (and possibly fail with) new ideas. The point of focus should be that they learn to exercise their creativity for the company’s benefit.

Managers must exercise wisdom in how much freedom individual employees are given with these new ideas so as to limit the risk they expose the organization to while the workers learn to appropriately exercise their new freedoms.

As they become effective in independently implementing new ideas, the workforce will naturally want to improve their processes as much as possible.

Managers will discover that the workers actually desire to improve the number of goods produced per worker, and simple improvements will eventually give way to more complex solutions as the company gets better at its tasks.

The workforce will eventually be leading the effort to implement robots, AI, etc. The surprising result when a business achieves this kind of cohesiveness is that it actually creates many more jobs than it eliminates.

It achieves higher productivity, higher profits and happier employees, clients and shareholders. The specific jobs are never “safe” because the workers are always looking to improve how they do business, but the employment of the workers is as safe as it can be because their business is so successful and their management cares about them.1_c8LgQbHWw4daTMEsC-txvg

As technology continues to advance at breakneck speed, we are tempted to focus wholly on how to harness the advances to get what we want. But to focus on the self is a sure path to misery, as is well-documented in philosophy and religion throughout human history.

The 4IR is already bringing upheaval to society and much more is certainly in store for us, but it can be a great force for good if we commit ourselves to be the servants of our fellow people.

How Pakistan can benefit?

Noted educationist and former chairman of the HEC, Dr Atta-ur-Rahman, suggests the following way forward for Pakistan in his article ‘Road to National Reconstruction’.

  1. We must declare a national education emergency and completely overhaul our education systems that are in a huge mess.
  2. We need to uplift our science institutions by training at least 70,000 PhDs in leading universities abroad and attract them back to Pakistan with revival of the performance-based tenure and track system of salaries and liberal research grants. The programme of establishing a network of foreign universities in Pakistan should be revived so that our students could obtain top-quality higher education.
  3. Innovation and entrepreneurship should be promoted by establishing a large Venture Capital Fund for new start-ups, establishing technology parks and business incubators and offering long-term tax holidays for industrial manufacture and export of high technology products.
  4. We need to encourage private sector Research and Development as it has been the key to success of the developed countries and emerging economies where it has grown rapidly. About 70 percent of R&D expenditure in China comes from the private sector. It is about 75 percent in Korea, about 70 percent in Germany and about 68 percent in the US. However, it is less than one percent in Pakistan.
  5. We need to change the system of governance. A presidential system of democracy is far more suited for Pakistan as there is a much better separation of powers between the three key arms of the governance system, the legislature (parliament), the executive (government ministries and departments) and the judiciary.
  6. Completely reform justice system to make it one that delivers justice within 20 days of a case being filed. If we employ 2,000 judges on contract who are given crystal clear Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to decide at least 10 cases each month, then 200,000 cases can be decided in the lower courts annually. A similar strategy can be adopted in higher courts. All that is needed is the determination to do this and some funding so that the system can be completely revamped.

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