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Public-Private Task Force Launched to Close India’s Skills Gap

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The Minister of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship of India and the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Infosys, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, today launch a Task Force for Closing the Skills Gap in India, bringing together leaders from business, government, civil society, and the education and training sectors to accelerate the future-proofing of education and training systems in the country.

The goal of the Task Force in India is to convene the top 50 to 100 companies in the country to develop an action plan and objectives to address skills gaps. One of its first mandates will be to define targets for reskilling and upskilling in the adult workforce. According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report, published in September, over half of India’s workforce will need to be reskilled by 2022 to meet the demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The report, which is based on a comprehensive global survey of chief human resources and strategy officers, also finds that talent availability is the single most important factor in determining job locations for international businesses with operations in India and that 67% of those businesses surveyed said they expected to outsource functions by 2022 in response to changing skill requirements.

“With the world’s largest youth population and more than half of its population of working age, skills development will be critical to sustaining inclusive growth and development in India. The Closing the Skills Gap Task Force will be a significant step to accelerate the impact on skills development already achieved by bringing together relevant stakeholders to act collectively,” said Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship of India and Co-Chair of the Task Force.

“Developing talent and the skillsets to effectively meet the dynamic workforce requirements of the future needs active participation from global enterprises, both in terms of investments in continual learning opportunities and collaboration with governments and educational institutions. I am excited that this taskforce will help bridge the skill gap and broaden the opportunity horizon for reskilled talent, while accelerating competitiveness for Indian companies”, said Salil Parekh, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Infosys who is also a Co-Chair of the Task Force.

“Preparing for the future of work requires proactive collaboration on the part of the public and the private sector. The World Economic Forum’s Closing the Skills Gap Project aims to provide a platform for countries interested in piloting an accelerated approach to anticipating and managing the future of work. We are very pleased to be working with India and supporting the country’s ambitious growth and jobs agenda,” said Saadia Zahidi, Member of the Managing Board and Head of the Centre for the New Economy and Society, World Economic Forum.

The India Task Force is the second country-led public-private collaboration of the World Economic Forum’s Closing the Skills Gap Project after South Africa. The project serves as a platform to focus fragmented actions within one overarching mission to address future-oriented skills development, while at the same time supporting constructive public-private collaboration on urgent and fundamental reform of education systems and labour policies to prepare workforces for the future of jobs. Five initial country pilots are being established, including in G20 economies, which will serve as platforms of learning and contributing to the global body of knowledge on preparing people for the future of work, with a goal of establishing 10 national Task Forces by 2020. Complementary efforts are being driven by the Forum’s Closing the Skills Gap 2020 initiative, which seeks to gather commitments from global businesses to reskill and upskill 8 million people by 2020. So far, companies in India have committed to reach over 1 million workers.

This initiative forms part of the World Economic Forum’s Centre for the New Economy and Society. The Centre aims to build dynamic and inclusive economies and systems in an era of accelerated technological and political change, providing leaders with a platform to understand and anticipate emerging economic and social trends and to adapt policies and practices to our rapidly evolving context. It integrates the System Initiative on the Future of Economic Progress and the System Initiative on the Future of Education, Gender and Work, and serves as a hub for the most relevant insights and pioneering actions in these domains.

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ADB Supports 275 MW Power Plant to Boost Energy Access in Sumatra, Indonesia

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) today signed a private sector financing package to support the construction of a 275-megawatt combined-cycle gas turbine power plant in Riau province in central Sumatra, Indonesia, to help secure the country’s energy future and provide communities with more affordable and reliable electricity.

The financing consists of a $70 million A loan from ADB’s ordinary capital resources and $82 million B loan from Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and MUFG Bank, with ADB providing a partial risk guarantee (PRG) to the participating commercial banks. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) will provide $50 million for the Riau Natural Gas Power Project in the first-ever cofinancing of an infrastructure project by ADB and IFC in Indonesia.

ADB will also administer a $20 million loan from the Leading Asia’s Private Sector Infrastructure Fund (LEAP), supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency. Established in March 2016, LEAP’s mandate is to help fill financing gaps and increase access to finance for ADB-supported infrastructure projects in Asia and the Pacific.

“ADB’s involvement in the project has helped secure long-term commercial bank financing necessary for any large-scale infrastructure investment, which has remained a challenge in Indonesia,” said Infrastructure Finance Division Director for Southeast Asia, East Asia, and the Pacific at ADB’s Private Sector Operations Department Mr. Jackie B. Surtani. “ADB’s role as a lender and provider of PRG to the project’s B loan lenders will enable the project to mobilize a significant amount of long-term debt.”

The project is being implemented through PT. Medco Ratch Power Riau, a special purpose vehicle partially owned by PT. Medco Power Indonesia, a leading developer and operator of small and medium-sized independent power producers (IPP) in the country, and Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding Public Company Limited, Thailand’s largest IPP.

“ADB’s role was key in getting this transaction closed from the negotiation stage of the power purchase agreement to the structuring of the financing package,” said PT. Medco Power Indonesia Chief Executive Officer Mr. Eka Satria.

The plant is expected to provide stable and reliable power to the domestic grid, amounting to about 1,445 gigawatt-hour annually. The use of combined-cycle gas-fired power generation will improve the environmental sustainability of the current energy mix in Sumatra by displacing diesel and coal as fuels for electricity generation.

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Environment

Education critical to ensure future of forests, and reverse their destruction

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The UN drew attention to the vital role that forests play in addressing some of the world’s greatest environmental challenges on Thursday, and the importance of tackling the issues that threaten them, such as deforestation, and land degradation.

The UN drew attention to the vital role that forests play in addressing some of the world’s greatest environmental challenges on Thursday, and the importance of tackling the issues that threaten them, such as deforestation, and land degradation.

Marking the 2019 International Day of Forests, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) launched new forestry education initiatives aimed at raising awareness amongst young people about their sustainable use and conservation, and some of the major challenges related to forestry education.

Despite the well documented and important role that forests play in keeping the environment healthy and helping to address global challenges such as climate change through the capture of greenhouse gases, many people have little knowledge of the many ways that forests support human life, or the grave dangers many forests face.

As more and more people move to cities, becoming oblivious to the plight of rural areas, says the FAO, this problem is growing.

In a statement, José Graziano da Silva, FAO’s Director-General, said that “education is a critical step to safeguarding natural resources for future generations. It is essential for children to learn about forests at an early age.”Education, however, can challenge and reverse this situation. The FAO has identified deficiencies in the way that forest-related issues are taught, describing forestry education as generally “inadequate,” and failing to address emerging challenges. The opportunities to study forestry at all levels, the Organization says, are few and far between.

As part of the global celebrations marking the day, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) held a special event at UN Headquarters in New York on Thursday, featuring remarks by senior UN and government officials, as well as a panel discussion and general discussion by Member States and UN bodies.

Opening the event, Mr. Hossein Moeini Meybodi, Senior Forest Policy Officer at the UN Forum on Forests, was positive about the effect that education, awareness raising measures and improved forestry management can have on the future of forests: “It is our sincere hope that by sharing positive messages on solutions that exist for forests, and the communities that they support, we can learn from each other and together create a greener, more sustainable world for future generations.”

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Human Rights

UNESCO research on AI’s implications on human rights

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“Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly becoming the veiled decision-maker of our times.  AI has profound implications on human rights ranging from freedom of expression, privacy, to right to equality and participation; a human rights based approach must be mainstreamed to guide the development AI through inclusive multi-stakeholder participation,” said UNESCO programme specialist Xianhong Hu, when she spoke at the 40th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council last week.

She was presenting the summary findings of UNESCO’s new report Steering AI for Knowledge Societies: A ROAM Perspective, during the panel discussion on Human Rights in the Era of Artificial Intelligence: Exploring the AI development from UNESCO’s prism of Internet Universality, this report shows these principles are intended for all interested stakeholders and AI development should align with human Rights, Openness, Accessibility and Multi-stakeholder governance.

This ROAM approach can serve to guide the ensemble of values, norms, policies, regulations, codes and ethics that govern the development and use of AI – a theme that was echoed by a number of delegates in the room.

“The complexity of AI calls for an interdisciplinary, comprehensive, global and multi-stakeholder reflection on the opportunities and challenges that come with such advanced ICTs,” stated Abdulaziz Almuzaini, Director of the UNESCO Geneva Liaison Office.

UNESCO’s ROAM framework was highly commended by delegates, professionals and academic representatives present during the panel session. “We appreciate our cooperation with UNESCO. AI is transforming our lives, the use of AI in the exploitation of big data is essential. These are all areas we need to protect human rights,” said Omar Zniber, Permanent Representative of Morocco. H.E. Zniber elaborated that AI-generated content sometimes boosts “fake news” and blurs the lines for accountability of produced content. Moreover, AI’s consequences will be felt strongly the Global South, where the potential for digital divide are stronger.

Further insight was provided by Francois Gave, Deputy Permanent Representative of France, regarding France’s position on AI and technology. Stating that AI has been placed on the G7 agenda, he noted that democracy itself could be at stake in the grander scheme of human rights, because some people do not realise that their information is being gathered and retained. At the level of the European Union, many principles surrounding human rights and data privacy exist. However, he held that “now is the time to take things further and work together.”

Dr. Eileen Donahoe, Executive Director, Stanford Global Digital Policy Incubator, moderated the session and pointed that the implication of AI for human rights are vast and multilayered. She believes the existing universal human rights framework including UNESCO’s ROAM principles, can serve as a primary guide for technologist and for policy-makers to help ensure that AI development is beneficial for humanity.

The UNESCO summary report also reveals that privacy is often infringed when AI involves opaque data collection, de-anonymization, third-party data-sharing, and the tracking and profiling of individuals.

 “Increasing Information personalization and content moderation by AI enhance users’ access to information, but at the same time can narrow down the scope of Information and the pluralism of ideas to which they are exposed. Particularly, when Internet intermediaries are pressured to use AI to combat hate speech and disinformation, this can risk removing legitimate content and thus undermine the free flow of information”, stressed UNESCO’s Hu in her presentation.

Vidushi Marda, Legal Scholar from Article 19, stressed that some people may be “forsaken” with the development of AI. She held that the unintended consequences of AI are not being considered as much as they ought to be.

Coining AI as a “trend” word, Jovan Kurbalija, Executive Director and Co-Lead of the United Nations Secretary General High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, emphasised that using AI in local scenarios is of utmost importance. In addition to the protection of human rights, “human happiness and appreciation” must also be considered.

UNESCO’s new summary report is about ongoing research and  the final publication will elaborate key options for actions for different stakeholders as well as overarching options for shaping the future of AI development. The preliminary brochure is online at https://en.unesco.org/sites/default/files/unesco-steering_ai_for_knowledge_societies.pdf as well as on UNESCO’s webpage dedicated to Artificial Intelligence https://en.unesco.org/artificial-intelligence.

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