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India and Industry 4.0: Smart Thinking and Smart Politics

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The neologism -Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0 is not uncommon for policymakers and technocrats. Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF), published a book titled “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” and coined the term at the Davos meeting in 2016. Since then, “Industry 4.0” has been a buzzword in all major economic and business summits.

In a paper titled – The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond, Klaus Schwab, said “this revolution is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. There are three reasons why today’s transformations represent not merely a prolongation of the Third Industrial Revolution but rather the arrival of a fourth and distinct one: Velocity, scope, and systems impact.” The world is at the cusp of an unrivalled revolution. The first revolution captivated water and steam to mechanise production, the second exploited electric power and the third relied on electronics and IT. The fourth one is a conglomeration of various automation technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), blockchain, fintech, autonomous vehicles, 5G telephony, nanotechnology, biotech, machine learning, robotics, quantum computing and the like.

Nicholas Davis, head of Society and Innovation at WEF in this WEF paper, describes this revolution as the emergence of cyber-physical systems which, while being “reliant on the technologies and infrastructure of the third industrial revolution…, represent entirely new ways in which technology becomes embedded within societies and even our human bodies”.

Industry 4.0 is shaped by advanced technologies from different spheres like the physical and digital worlds that combine to create innovations at a speed and scale unparalleled in human history. The fourth industrial revolution demands ubiquitous digitization, automatic machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and is constantly transforming how individuals, governments and companies relate to each other and the world at large. With such sudden disruption, it will radically change macroeconomics and the way the industry responds to the needs of civil society.

Great and sudden change by its very nature is painful to accommodate. Preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution is a subjective task. Developed economies like the United States, Russia, China, etc. will have to frame policies according to their economic and technological demands. For a growing economy like India with its under utilised population, young age and cultural diversity, a more people-intensive approach should be adopted. This will require policymakers to harness the industrial change instead of being a reactive agent. In democracies like India, it is effective law-making which plays a major role to deliver regulatory frameworks that change often and respond to the stimulus.

The speed of change is unexcelled. It is disrupting almost every industry in every country, and it presages the transformation of production and governance. The gap between the 1st and 2nd industrial revolution was around 100 years, 2nd and 3rd was approximately 70 years, 3rd and 4th is 25 years. Analysing this trend, it cannot be ruled out that the next industrial revolution may take place within 10-15 years. So, it is very important that economies pool their resources, take risks, make new investments and come together for better agility to adapt quickly to make the best use of this global change. 

Going into the history of industrial revolutions, it is apparent from a layman analysis that whichever country early participated in the industrial process turned out to become world leaders right after that industrial revolution. India is a young nation aiming to be the third largest with a10 trillion-dollar economy by 2030, India has no option but to not only participate but also be the frontrunner in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

In 1750 AD, India’s share of global industrial output was roughly above 25%. India missed the bus of first industrialisation due to the devious British Raj and by 1900, this had plummeted to 2%. While India’s contribution to the world GDP was 2.6 per cent in 2014, it has increased to 3.3 per cent in 2017. Addressing the joint sitting of the Parliament, the President of India said the country’s GDP has been growing at a rate of 7.3 per cent on an average, making India the sixth largest economy in the world. India is playing a vital role in international trade in the Asia Pacific region. The President also noted that this is an opportune moment for the country to play a decisive role in the fourth industrial revolution considering its economic position. 

Proper channelling of resources towards Industry 4.0 can help India leapfrog traditional phases of development and accelerate its metamorphosis to a developed nation. Being the fastest growing economy, deploying these technologies optimally and strategically can create more sustainable growth. A culturally accommodative nation with more than 70% of its population under the age of 32, India’s role is also going to be crucial in shaping the global Fourth Industrial Revolution agenda in a millennial and inclusive manner. India has the potential to be the global hub for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Governments, entrepreneurs, business houses and start-ups are rapidly adopting technologies involving AI, the Internet of Things, 3D-printing, advanced robotics and blockchain. Artificial intelligence can be used effectively to reduce poverty, improve the lives of farmers and make the lives of the differently abled simpler. The application of AI in sectors from health to law, from manufacturing to finance, from elections to governance, is not an impossible reality. Blockchain can facilitate cross-border data and technology transfers to support government services and natural resource management. India recently came up with its unmanned aircraft systems policy, commonly referred to as drones, having the ability to strengthen defence and security, make dangerous jobs safe, and act as a lifeline for remote populations.

Considering the pace of growth of automation technologies, it is absolutely possible that we will reach a point called “singularity” where machines become as smart as humans and then keep getting smarter.  Repetitive processes are increasingly becoming automated. Digital technologies have the potentiality to bring about the balance between green and growth, data and infrastructure, and profits and people. Technology will soon be able to edit genes to create favourable traits and new life forms. 3D Printers may become capable to produce fully functional, usable organs. Artificial blood might soon become a reality and the oceans would be harvested for food. Banks and financial sectors in India are already using chatbots and humanoid robots.  A Kannada-speaking robot in Canara Bank in Karnataka and Ira robot of the HDFC Bank which helps customers choose the right service and financial products are examples of linguistic coding of automation technologies.

It is estimated that between 2018 and 2022, as many as 75 million jobs will be displaced worldwide due to automation; however, as many as 133 million new ones would be created.  In the United States alone, it is estimated that 1.4 million workers will be displaced in the coming decade as a result of the introduction of new technologies. India’s information technology sector is already witnessing jobless growth and there are various reports showing India unemployment rate hit a 45 year high in 2017-18. The biggest concern of Industry 4.0 for every growing economy is the loss of jobs. A potential answer to this problem is – smart politics. In a country like India with 1.3 billion people, it is practically impossible for any government in the world to provide jobs to everyone, what is practical is to engage people. This engagement is not only about job creation but also about start-ups, alliances, businesses, offshoring, etc. which will sufficiently help an economy to capitalise the resource pool.

Like all revolutions that preceded it, the Fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to raise income levels and improve the quality of life globally. Mitigating the relevancy of jobs is not India specific, it is a global issue. But the peculiarity of this problem is the method of tackling it. Smart policies and smart thinking can reconstruct these challenges into opportunities. When the first computer was invented, there was a worldwide outcry on its impact on jobs, but history is the evidence of the fact that computers created more jobs than it destroyed. India too faced national protests against the computerisation of railway tickets as economists predicted it would take its toll on the jobs. Today, Indian Railways is India’s largest employer and is about to conduct the world largest employment drive with around 2.37 crore applicants competing for 1.27 lakh posts.

Given the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s rapid pace of change, it is important for governments and international organisations to evaluate whether to create change or follow the change.  Legislators and regulators are being challenged to an unprecedented degree and for the most part is proving unable to frame a flexible framework. Unconventional challenges need collaborative efforts. India will have to create a long-term ecosystem with the right mix of accelerators comprising of regulatory frameworks, educational ecosystems and government incentives that train and educates professionals.

India’s philosophy “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” or “the world is one family”, has guided the nation since Vedic times. It is based on the blending of science and spirituality for harmonious co-existence reaffirms faith in innovation and adaptability. India can act as a coordinator to collaborate with global economies to form a joint platform or intergovernmental taskforce involving all stakeholders of the global polity for leveraging most of the Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies.

Adithya is a student of Law at University of Mumbai’s School of Law. In the past, he has been a Researcher at an International legal & policy research think-tank and an Intern at the Office of Minister of State for Law & Justice and Corporate Affairs, Government of India.

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Huawei case: The HiFi Geostrategic Gambit

Juan Martin Gonzlez

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In a general, comprehensive, strategic outline of the global scenario we can see that China is being harassed on several fronts by the US: commercial pressures, diplomatic maneuvers to block the progress of infrastructure projects (OBOR/New Silk Road), at technological level, the boycott/ restrictions against Huawei. These are some of the current modalities of strategic competition between great powers, without involving the direct use of hard / military power, which we could well consider a Cold War 2.0.

Analyzing the factors and interests at stake, the events in full development during the last months are not surprising, as the advances of the US government against the Chinese technological giant Huawei. Since the arrest of its CFO, Meng Wanzhou, daughter of the founder of the company, to accusations of espionage, boycotts and diplomatic pressure to annul Huawei’s advances in several countries.

Huawei is the flagship, the spearhead of the Chinese technological advance. This onslaught is not a coincidence. While formally not having direct links with the Chinese government, Huawei has a prominent role in the Chinese strategic technological plan “Made in China 2025”, because of its development and implementation of 5G networks, key part of the plan, which are estimated to be available around soon.

The strategic approach is to change the Chinese productive matrix towards a “High Tech” economy, of design and innovation, to position China in the forefront in the technological advanced sectors of the modern economy (artificial intelligence, biotechnology, robotics, automation, the internet of things, telecommunications, software, renewable energies, and the element that is in the most interest for us to analyze, the 5G). In Washington, they do not feel comfortable with Chinese advances.

The Eurasia Group consulting firm argues that the installation of 5G networks will involve one of the biggest changes in our time, comparing its appearance with major breaks in the technological history such as electricity. Some specialists, websites and the press have coined the term “Sputnik” moment, by comparing the potential impact of competition for the development of 5G technologies with the space race in the Cold War at the time.

The 5G will allow the use of faster network data, as well as the widespread and coordinated use of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, the internet of things, smart cities, automation, improvements in health, and in the military field.

The US has put pressure on several of its allies (Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Great Britain, and Canada to name some) to block Huawei’s advances in services and investments in their countries, while restricting the purchase of Huawei’s products and services on North American soil.

While it is true that several countries could give in from the pressure from Washington to “encircle” Huawei and restrict its services and products, so is the fact that many other countries, especially the many that have China as their main trading partner, in addition to all the pleiad of emerging and developing countries that are being seduced by the economic possibilities, and in this specific case, technology offered by China and its companies. What it would imply, a worldwide competition between American diplomatic muscle and Chinese sweet money.

And also in commercial terms, the progress of Huawei into the top of the tech companies is remarkable, due to its production methods and its business model, having surpassed, for example, APPLE among the largest companies that sells mobile phones being only second to Samsung.

Does anyone remember free trade? Competition? What’s up with that? Or was it just a trick? It seems that in the global economic game, the US throws the chessboard away when it loses, and uses the geopolitical muscle, without any problem, following the Groucho’s Marx doctrine: “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.”

The fears about Huawei’s technology are hiding a power struggle, a hegemonic dispute over technology. So far the accusations of espionage against this corporation perhaps are valid in theoretical sense, but unprovable in facts, what left them as mere speculations. The accusations by the US against Huawei, through the speech of “the threat of espionage” are unbelievable, and hypocritical in some sense, and the speech is marked by a double standard… Who represents the threat?

is the same US that nowadays “advises” its allies and other countries to “protect” themselves against the “threat” of Huawei’s espionage in favor of its government, the same country that spied on its own allies in a wicked way, if we remember the cases that Assange and Snowden brought to light.

We can also highlight recently the Cambridge Analytica scandal – much of which has been well predicted by prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic in his influential manifesto about the McFB world of tomorrow. The Cambridge Analytica fiasco plainly showed the unholy relations between the big technological “independent” corporations like Facebook and Google with the political power in the West.

Conclusions

Technological competition is another chessboard of this new multilevel and multidimensional XXI Century Great Game, where the great actors move their pieces.

5G is the focal point for a global rush to dominate the next wave of technological development – a race many policymakers worry the U.S. is already losing, and that’s why they act in this aggressive way. The strategic competition for advanced, high technologies such as 5G, and innovations in the fourth industrial revolution, will mark the “podium” of the great powers of the 21st century.

The technological new cold war between the two largest economies and powers in the world shows no signs of diminishing, either the strategic competition.

Who will win this Great Game on the chessboards? The patience / precaution and forecast of the game of Go, or the strong bets and bluffs of poker.

The geostrategic chessboard is already deployed. Players already have their cards in hand, and have moved their tokens. Prestige is to come.

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Youth in the Global South Must Join Forces for Their Future of Work

Maria Victoria Alonsoperez

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I believe that the developing world is full of opportunities for young people because many of us have the energy and eagerness to make a difference in the world. In many cases the solutions to problems in communities are simpler than they appear. It just needs someone to push. I know from first-hand experience that there is nothing more rewarding than creating a venture or project that has an impact.

In 2001 I witnessed a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak among cattle that severely damaged the economy of Uruguay, as well as other countries’ in the region. Many years later, in 2012, after graduating as an electrical engineer and working with small satellites, I heard about a competition for young innovators organized by the International Telecommunication Union. They were looking for technological inventions that could solve a problem in a particular region. I immediately thought about the foot and mouth disease outbreak and used my knowledge of space technology to create a system that could monitor anomalies in cattle remotely. I submitted the idea and some months later found out I had won the competition! With the cash prize I founded Chipsafer, a monitoring platform that analyses cattle behaviour using data transmitted from trackers installed in their collars. Besides detecting anomalies in cattle behaviour and combating cattle theft, Chipsafer can also help improve the decisions farmers make relating to the production process.

Countries from the Global South should join forces to surf on the wave of technological revolution and benefit from innovative solutions like these to overcome challenges and to achieve a better and more sustainable future. That’s what we mean by South-South cooperation.

Young people – students, entrepreneurs, professionals, activists – need to play a part in this too because they are drivers of change. Yet, with 65 million young people unemployed globally, they still face many challenges.

In a few weeks I will be part of a panel at an ILO event in Argentina on the future of work for youth, with a focus on developing countries. It will take place on the sidelines of the Second High-level United Nations Conference on South-South cooperation (BAPA+40).

My fellow panellists will include Rebeca Grynspan, who was a member of the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work, as well as workers’ and employers’ representatives. We’ll look at the issue from three angles; policies for skills development, green jobs, and social dialogue. The aim of the session is to provide recommendations for BAPA+40 participants on the effective integration of youth employment policies into South-South and triangular cooperation (where developed countries or multilateral organizations support South-South cooperation).

I plan to talk about the challenges for youth in the context of the future world of work and discuss the impact of South-South cooperation in promoting decent jobs for youth.

Technology is revolutionising the world, and the world of work is no exception. I believe all stakeholders, whether they are international institutions, governments, employers’ or workers’ organizations, must accept responsibility and take collective action to build the future of work that we want. South-South and triangular cooperation must be part of the answer.

ILO

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Artificial Intelligence in Knowledge Societies: A ROAM Approach – Open Data and AI

MD Staff

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The session “Open Data and AI” organized within the framework of “Principles for AI: Towards a Humanistic Approach?” on 5 March 2019 requested UNESCO to continue leveraging its convening power to increase awareness around artificial intelligence and big data,  support development of inclusive policy on Open Data and support upstream and downstream capacity enhancement.

The workshop noted Data as an essential element for the development of artificial intelligence. The availability of large amounts of user data through services on mobile phones and internet of things among other sources, has led to a variety of AI applications and services. However, there remain many challenges. These challenges encompass issues of access, privacy, discrimination and openness. Several of these challenges are within UNESCO’s mandate of building inclusive knowledge societies for peace and sustainable development.

Ms Dorothy Gordon, Chair of the Information for All Programme at UNESCO pointed out that “despite the fact that we have a huge interest from many donors, we do not seem to have done very much systematically to prepare African countries to have useful data … [and] in a searchable format that can be combined with other sources to … yield something [beneficial]”. She stressed the need to bridge gaps in terms of the availability of legacy data, setting policy standards, and enhancing capabilities of people to work with local data sets.

Ms Constance Bommelaer, Senior Director of Global Internet Policy and International Organizations at The Internet Society underlined ‘data commons’ as an interesting solution to explore but one that needs a nuanced discussion around ownership and privacy. She highlighted the need to challenge existing notion of competition and a need for “reconsideration of market values and monopolies”. Stressing the importance of access, she shared the findings of a joint study carried out by ISOC and UNESCO that showed how a combination of local language content and better access policies results in immediate economic benefits at the local level.

As a government representative, Ms Veronika Bošković Pohar, Deputy Permanent Delegate of the Republic of Slovenia to UNESCO discussed ‘regulatory sandboxes’ as a means to provide controlled environment for AI. She hoped that Slovenia’s proposed Category 2 Centre on Artificial Intelligence would be able to make several informed decisions, provide insights into technology and societal interface and create mechanisms for continuous monitoring and reporting to reduce risks posed by AI to vulnerable groups.

Speaking as a panelist representing a knowledge organization, Prof. Maria Fasli, UNESCO Chair in Analytics and Big Data at University of Essex noted the lack of understanding on AI and Big Data and expressed concerns for the difficulty faced by the academic community in accessing data collected by large technology firms for research purpose. She further highlighted the need for high quality representative data to ensure that algorithms are not biased.

Given their experience in tracking innovation trends across the world. Mr Marcus Goddard, Vice President of Intelligence at Netexplo Observatory underlined that “access to data is a necessary but not sufficient condition for innovation. Pointing out the general trends in openness, he mentioned that openness is not Silicon Valley’s top priority and convenience seems to be the norm when it comes to launch of new products and services. He highlighted that even as data is being used in smart cities to improve access and sustainability, it is also increasing the threat of surveillance.

Mr Philippe Petitpont, Co-founder of Newsbridge, a Paris based AI and Media startup, presented the scale of the data problem that the media faces today. He remarked that media companies are gathering 30 million hours of video content every year, a number that does not include social media videos. In this situation, extracting useful insights from these videos is a cumbersome task albeit one that can be performed by AI. They try to leverage AI to help journalists process large amounts of data at lower costs.

The session brought the viewpoints of multiple stakeholders to the discussion table and some of the key concerns included were:

  • Urgent need to increase awareness around artificial intelligence and big data;
  • Developing strategies to strengthen access to data for training machine learning algorithms;
  • Supporting both upstream and downstream capacity enhancement to leverage data for benefit;
  • Involving private sector actors in the discussion around access to data and data monopolies; and
  • Creating systems for addressing discrimination and biases originating through data and algorithms.

The panel members congratulated UNESCO for facilitating important discussions around issues of rights, openness, access and multistakeholder participation in the governance of data and hoped to engage with the organization for further development of issues around Open Data and AI.

UNESCO

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