Archive for the ‘Educational Technologies’ Category

No internet for Malaysian teens from 12am to 6am daily?

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018
The government is looking at emulating Japan and South Korea by preventing internet access for those under 17-years-old, between 12am and 6am. (File pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: The government is looking at emulating Japan and South Korea by preventing internet access for those under 17-years-old, between 12am and 6am.

Deputy Health Minister, Dr Lee Boon Chye, said the initiative was among the measures being studied by the government to curb teen addiction to online gaming and social media applications nationwide.

“The government is studying whether such a measure can be carried out here.

“There are also gaming providers which prevent users under-17 from accessing their games for a period of one to two hours.

“These are among the steps being studied to ensure that video game addition can be brought under control,” he said.

Dr Lee was responding to a question from Lukanisman Awang Sauni (GPS-PBB Sibuti) in the Dewan Rakyat on whether addiction to games and social media applications are categorised as mental problems.

The minister said, the country’s Health and Morbidity Studies last year showed that 34.9 per cent of Malaysian children between 13 and 17 show a prevalence towards internet addiction.

He said checks by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) on internet usage trends last year showed that 80 per cent of the 24.1 million users use the internet for social media.

“Checks also showed that the average user spends about four hours online daily,” he said.

He said addiction to video games and social media applications could have a negative impact on individuals, apart from being habit-forming.

He said the latest updates from the World Health Organisaiton in its International Classification of Diseases (11th series) stated that video game addiction is listed as a mental health illness.

By Fairul Asmaini Mohd Pilus.

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Make Internet access affordable to all

Saturday, July 7th, 2018
Telecommunications companies must price Internet products and services affordably so that they are accessible to all.

WE live in a highly connected world so much so that we describe the world of the 21st century as a “global village”.

However, not everybody is connected. Some cannot afford the high fees charged by telecommunications companies.

Pricing people out of the Internet is not right. It is not a corporate practice that is consistent with the Internet of Things age. Some argue that the right to Internet access is a human right. I would not go that far, but what I will say though is that the Internet must be accessible to all, not just to some groups.

Some companies claim that they practise corporate social responsibility, but when it comes to providing Internet access, they impose high fees to make big profits. This is not right. It is even unjust. Companies operate in an environment of people, and if the people around them cannot afford to buy the companies’ products and services, then they are being irresponsible

We understand the need for companies to make profits. Otherwise, they can’t stay afloat. What we do not understand is the companies’ desire to make huge profits. This is corporate greed. We all remember the rise and fall of Enron Corporation, the American energy company that was too good for itself.

Closer to home, I think many companies do not understand the concept of CSR. Many think CSR means a philanthropy programme through which good causes are funded. This is a misconception.

On the contrary, being a socially responsible company means doing everything from start to finish responsibly. Let me quote the Financial Times for a learned version of it: “Corporate social responsibility is a business approach that contributes to sustainable development by delivering economic, social and environmental benefits for all stakeholders”. This means companies must be aware of “the impact of their business on the rest of society, including their own stakeholders and the environment”.

So, CSR is not about giving handouts during Hari Raya Aidilfitri or other festivities. Neither is it about giving seasonal Internet access packages at discounted rates for selected groups.

Some economists believe that we should let the “market” decide this. A leading example of this is the late Milton Friedman, who infamously said the only social responsibility of a company was to make profits. He is long gone, but his ideas are still being adopted by companies that miss the point of being responsible, just like Friedman missed it.

Because some companies misbehave, we need the active involvement of the government to enforce rules to moderate the behaviours of such corporations. Like errant human beings, who require the government to moderate their behaviours to make life bearable, we need the government to ensure corporate players operate responsibly.

By Norazian Mohamad

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Long and short of digital revolution

Friday, June 29th, 2018
Digitalisation requires devising smart policies to maximise the benefits. FILE PIc.

DIGITAL platforms are recasting the relationships between customers, workers and employers as the silicon chip’s reach permeates almost everything we do — from buying groceries online to finding a partner on a dating website.

As computing power improves dramatically, and more and more people around the world participate in the digital economy, we should think carefully about how to devise policies that will allow us to fully exploit the digital revolution’s benefits while minimising job dislocation.

This digital transformation results from what economists who study scientific progress and technical change call a general-purpose technology — that is, one that has the power to continually transform itself, progressively branching out and boosting productivity across all sectors and industries.

Such transformations are rare. Only three previous technologies earned this distinction: the steam engine, the electricity generator, and the printing press. These changes bring enormous long-term benefits.

The steam engine, originally designed to pump water out of mines, gave rise to railroads and industry through the application of mechanical power. Benefits accrued as farmers and merchants delivered their goods from the interior of a country to the coasts, facilitating trade.

By their very nature, general-purpose technological revolutions are also highly disruptive. The Luddites of the early 19th century resisted and tried to destroy machines that rendered their weaving skills obsolete, even though the machines ushered in new skills and jobs. Such disruption occurs precisely because the new technology is so flexible and pervasive.

Consequently, many benefits come not simply from adopting the technology, but from adapting to the technology. The advent of electricity generation enabled power to be delivered precisely when and where needed, vastly improving manufacturing efficiency and paving the way for the modern production line. In the same vein, Uber is a taxi company using digital technology to deliver a better service.

An important component of a disruptive technology is that it must first be widely adopted before society adapts to it. Electricity delivery depended on generators. The current technological revolution depends on computers, the technical backbone of the Internet, search engines, and digital platforms.

Because of the lags involved in adapting to new processes, such as replacing traditional printing with online publishing, it takes time before output growth accelerates. In the early stages of such revolutions, more and more resources are devoted to innovation and reorganisation whose benefits are realised only much later.

Perhaps it is no wonder that the digital revolution doesn’t show up in the productivity statistics quite yet — after all, the personal computer emerged only about 40 years ago.

But make no mistake — the digital revolution is well under way. In addition to transforming jobs and skills, it is also overhauling industries such as retailing and publishing and perhaps — in the not-too-distant future — trucking and banking.

Looking forward, we may see even more disruption from breakthroughs in quantum computing, which would facilitate calculations that are beyond the capabilities of traditional computers. While enabling exciting new products, these computers could undo even some new technologies.

Digitalisation will also transform people’s jobs. The jobs of up to one-third of the US workforce, or about 50 million people, could be transformed by 2020, according to a report published last year by the McKinsey Global Institute.

The study also estimates that about half of all paid activities could be automated using existing robotics and artificial and machine learning technologies. For example, computers are learning not just to drive taxis but also to check for signs of cancer, a task currently performed by relatively well-paid radiologists.

While views vary, it is clear that there will be major potential job losses and transformations across all sectors and salary levels, including groups previously considered safe from automation.

But economic disruption and uncertainty can fuel social anxiety about the future, with political consequences. Current fears about job automation parallel John Maynard Keynes’s worries in 1930 about increasing technological unemployment. We know, of course, that humanity eventually adapted to using steam power and electricity, and chances are we will do so again with the digital revolution

The answer lies not in denial but in devising smart policies that maximise the benefits of the new technology while minimising the inevitable short-term disruptions. The key is to focus on policies that respond to the organisational changes driven by the digital revolution.

Electrification of US industry in the early 20th century benefited from a flexible educational system that gave people entering the labour force the skills needed to switch from farm work as well as training opportunities for existing workers to develop new skills.

In the same way, education and training should give today’s workers the wherewithal to thrive in a new economy in which repetitive cognitive tasks — from driving a truck to analysing a medical scan — are replaced by new skills such as web engineering and protecting cyber security. More generally, future jobs will probably emphasise human empathy and originality: the professionals deemed least likely to become obsolete include nursery school teachers, clergy and artists.

One clear difference between the digital revolution and the steam and electricity revolutions is the speed at which the technology is diffused across countries. While Germany and the United Kingdom followed the US take-up of electricity relatively quickly, the pace of diffusion across the globe was relatively slow

The revolution will clearly affect economies that are financial hubs, such as Singapore and Hong Kong, differently than, for example, specialised oil producers such as Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. Equally, the response to automated production technologies will reflect possibly different societal views on employment protection.

Where preferences diverge, international cooperation will likely involve swapping experiences of which policies work best. Similar considerations apply to the policy response to rising inequality, which will probably continue to accompany the gradual discovery of the best way to organise firms around the new technology.

Education and competition policy will also need to be
adapted. Schools and universities should provide coming
generations with the skills they need to work in the emerging economy. But societies also will need to put a premium on retraining workers whose skills have been degraded.

Similarly, the reorganisation of production puts new strains on competition policy to ensure that new techniques do not become the province of a few firms that come first in a winner-take-all lottery.

In a sign that this is what is already happening, Oxfam International recently reported that eight individuals held more assets than the poorest 3.6 billion combined.

Given the global reach of digital technology, and the risk of a race to the bottom, there is a need for policy cooperation similar to that of global financial markets and sea and air traffic.

In the digital arena, such cooperation could include regulating the treatment of personal data, which is hard to oversee in a country-specific way, given the international nature of the Internet, as well as intangible assets, whose amorphous nature and location can complicate the taxation of digital companies.


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Simplicity matters in life, and financial reporting

Thursday, June 28th, 2018
New and revised financial reporting standards are rolled out to reflect the new realities of the economy.

THE digital economy creates an efficient financial governance medium and our financial reporting should reflect that.

This should cover the entire reporting process, from data capture through analysis to data presentation.

New and revised standards are rolled out to reflect the new and complex realities of the economy and the business world.

Examples are the financial reporting standards of Malaysian Financial Reporting Standards (MFRS) 9: Financial Instruments (effective Jan 1 this year), MFRS 15: Revenue from Contracts with Customers (effective Jan 1 this year) and MFRS 16: Leases
(to take effect on Jan 1 next year)

However, to ensure better governance, measures need to be taken to carry out the above standards.

The Malaysian Institute of Accountants said a focus on organisations’ core businesses is needed to ensure that systems and processes are in place.

Secondly, stakeholders in organisations should be committed to the change process of the business transformation.

Knowledge, skills and attitudes of stakeholders should be matched with organisations’ vision and mission.

Thirdly, embracing information technology as much as possible will expedite the implementation process.

Finally, accountants must improve their financial reporting skills to give effect to the intent of the new standards of financial reporting.

Users’ feedback that MFRS is complex and difficult to be understood must be dealt with.

It is more important to provide clear, simple, useful but actionable financial reporting information for decisions to be made.

By Assoc Prof Dr Saunah Zainon.

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Visualise achieving your goals

Sunday, June 24th, 2018
Pupils engaging in an outdoor activity. Students who use visualisation techniques will plant the seeds of success in their lives. FILE PIC

TECHNOLOGY has made teaching and learning complex and holistic. Changes in content and pedagogy are also happening quickly.

The success rate in most developing nations is based on how well students perform in their examinations or how clever they have become.

In many schools and higher learning institutions, we are missing the integration of people, the joys of studying and the purpose of life. It has become a mechanical world.

Preschool children are forced to spend hours studying to get a head start, and are burnt out by the time they are in secondary school.

Some take their own lives because they cannot keep up with their expectations, let alone parental and societal ones, to excel in their studies.

To ensure that the digital education era does not eliminate the humanising of education, we should pay heed to Moral Education.

This is a subject that develops students into individuals with integrity and noble values.

They contribute to society’s unity, prosperity and wellbeing.

Through innovative pedagogies in Moral Education, such as visualisation, students can get into self-reflection and deep learning. These allow them to be in a better position to make decisions when faced with moral dilemmas.

When I was growing up in a multicultural environment, I always visualised people as equals, without even thinking about colour and creed. It is becoming a reality now.

Visualisation techniques have been used by many to see their desired outcomes.

The practice has given world leaders what seem like super-powers, helping them create their dream lives by accomplishing one goal at a time with focus and confidence.

The technique involves envisioning yourself achieving your goal. To do this, a detailed mental image of the desired outcome using your senses is created.

For example, if your goal is to stay healthy, visualise yourself eating only healthy food.

When students have the space to become complete humans, then no digital era will ever take away their pride and dignity.

The crucial question here is, are educators, parents and society providing this platform for students?

By Dr Vishalache Balakrishnan.

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Using technology in the classroom can transform learning

Monday, June 11th, 2018
(File pix) Using technology in the classroom can transform learning experience. Archive image for illustration purposes only. Pix by Faris Zainuldin

TALKING about technology in the classroom, one must remember the guru Robert Taylor, who wrote The Computer in School: Tutor, Tool, Tutee. Taylor framed the potential uses of the computer as: (a) tutor, computer-assisted instructions in which the computer teaches the child; (b) tool, in which the computer amplifies the ability to perform academic tasks; and, (c) tutee, in which students learn by programming the computer.

A term we often hear is computer literacy, which was coined by Arthur Luehrmann. I wrote a book on the subject in 2000 — Asas-Asas Multimedia Dalam Pendidikan (Fundamentals of Multimedia in Education).

Integrating technology into the classroom can be seen at three levels — macro, meso and micro — as mentioned by Robert Kozma of the Centre for Technology in Learning at SRI International.

At the macro level, system factors such as cultural norms, social context, educational policy, and curriculum standards come into play, while at the meso level, school factors such as availability of information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure, ICT integration plans, school leadership, innovation history and parents are emphasised.

At the micro level, individual factors such as pedagogical practice, innovation history, educational background and experience with technology are considered important for teachers, while experience with technology and social and cultural background are emphasised for students.

The Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025, under Shift 7, has incorporated ICT in education. Similarly, globalised online learning has been incorporated for higher education under Shift 9.

What needs to be done is this: the infrastructure in schools, such as Internet bandwidth, needs to be upgraded and made accessible 24/7. Devices such as tablets and interactive white boards or smart boards should be introduced in classrooms.

A green studio is recommended if recording of the teaching is needed. This allows students to watch the video any time and at any place.

Lecturers are becoming “educators”, “facilitators”, “instructors”, “coaches” and “e-moderators” rather than one-dimensional teachers.

Gone are the days when the lecturer used to stand in front of the classroom droning away. Now, they move around to facilitate discussions and group work.

Students, too, need to change from being recipients to creators of knowledge. They need to be creative and critical as per the demands of the 21st century.

The pedagogical approach has shifted from being teacher-centred to student-centred. Blended learning is the way to go for Generations Y and Z students.

Blended learning combines online digital media with face-to-face classroom methods. Classes are collaborative, with students using mobile devices such as mobile phones, iPads and notebooks as learning devices.

Making ready for the disruptive future

Monday, June 4th, 2018
Discover your true potential and arm yourself with the knowledge to survive the uncertain future.

Discover your true potential and arm yourself with the knowledge to survive the uncertain future.

THEY are called The Smartphone Generation. They’re the first to grow up with the latest techs and gadgets but while they are more digitally literate than us, a question looms over their future: Can they survive in an era of disruptive technology and economic uncertainty?

With that question in mind, Heriot-Watt University Malaysia (HWUM) is once again organising the Youth Transformation Programme (YTP) to help school leavers discover their true talent and equip them with the knowledge of the future as they try to make sense of the world.

Following the success of its first session, which attracted 160 participants, the second installment of YTP will commence on July 9-20.

A specially designed two-week programme, this programme aims to inculcate positive psychology into the students thus enabling them to identify their strengths, passion and potential – in line with the university’s aim to develop well-rounded students who are able to realise and fulfil their full potential.

However, if they do decide to enrol for the July 2018 Foundation intake, students are automatically eligible to attend the event.

Featuring motivational talks and other interactive activities, the HWUM Open Days will be held on June 9-10 at its campus at 1, Jalan Venna P5/2, Precint 5, Putrajaya.

Participants joining the YTP will have access to HWUM’s world-class facilities without the commitment to join its foundation programme.

Among the highlights of the two-day event will be a talk titled Employability in the 21stCentury: Future-Proofing Your Child on June 10 (10.30am-noon).

To be presented by HWUM provost and chief executive officer Prof Mushtak Al-Atabi, the talk will serve to introduce the youth an alternative way of thinking on what it means to be successful, happy and effective individuals who can thrive in the uncertain future.

A renowned educator by trade, innovator and an agent of change, Prof Mushtak constantly challenges the status quo to unlock value. He spearheaded the use of the CDIO (conceiving-designing-implementing-operating) educational framework in Malaysia and became among the first that offered massive open online courses in Asia in 2013.

His online classes – with subjects on entrepreneurship, success with emotional intelligence, and global entrepreneurship – attracted thousands of students from 150 countries.

A frequent speaker at international conferences, Prof Mushtak is also an adviser to national and multinational corporations, including banks as well as manufacturing and energy companies, in the areas of leadership, innovation, human development, performance and technology.

An author in his own right, Prof Mushtak is the founding editor-in-chief of the Journal of Engineering Science and Technology and he has penned books such as Shoot the BossThink Like An Engineer and Driving Performance.

byDouglas Elliot
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Blended learning models

Monday, February 26th, 2018

TEACHERS say they are willing to increase using online learning platforms if the content was more aligned towards preparing students for examinations.

According to a study done by the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, in the United States, which featured Malaysia as one of its case studies, teachers need the content to match what will be tested in national examinations.

The study, called “Blended Beyond Borders: A Scan of Blended Learning Obstacles and Opportunities in Brazil, Malaysia and South Africa”, focused on how a small sample of brick-and-mortar schools in these countries used online learning to deliver content in novel, more flexible ways.

Christensen Institute director of education research Julia Freeland Fisher says discussions during the school visits – for the study – showed that teachers were still looking for better content to make meaningful use of blended learning, especially for core subjects.

“Any teacher with a 1BestariNet Yes ID can upload their lesson sites to a nationwide repository and share it with teachers across Malaysia, allowing for the pooling of resources and the sharing of ideas and material,” she says, adding that the content is filtered by the Education Ministry to ensure quality.

“Teachers can also use the available content and format them in a way that emulates or support students in preparation for examinations.

“To date there are over 37,000 teacher-created sites covering all national school subjects.”

Yeoh also says that new and relevant content are continuously added regularly and that textbooks and revision books are available on the FrogStore for free.

She adds that there are currently more than 400 textbooks on the VLE and that FrogAsia has partnered with publishers like Penerbitan Pelangi Sdn Bhd and Oxford Fajar Sdn Bhd to provide content aligned with our national syllabus.

“One of our content partners, EduNation, also produces free tutoring videos that are in line with our national syllabus,” she adds.

Another point raised in the report is the use of blended learning models in the classroom.

Blended learning differs from learning in a tech-rich environment, says Freeland Fisher.

She explains that blended learning is a formal education programme where a student learns, partially or fully, through online learning with the student having some form of control over the time, place, path and maybe the pace they learn something.

Data from online learning can also be used to inform and drive a student’s offline learning pathway.

If it was just a tech-rich learning experience, she says technology is present in the classroom but the teacher is still in complete control of the learning experience.

“Students are using the internet to do research, maybe they’re typing their homework on documents and emailing it to their teacher,” she says.

However, the report points out that blended models should not do away with teachers or teacher-led lectures, small group lessons or face-to-face teaching. Rather, blended models offer a new way to teach in classrooms and schools whereby students may interact with content and teachers in a new way.

Freeland Fisher adds that teachers have said that “The facilities and infrastructure are the most difficult part of having a blended programme. The Internet isn’t always reliable, the classroom we use for the computer lab is very small and the all the computers besides the Chromebooks are old and secondhand.”

According to the survey, an overwhelming 77% said Internet connectivity in schools was a pain point when it comes to using technology.

More than half the respondents (55%) believe they needed more professional development in order to incorporate blended-learning into the classroom, says Freeland Fisher.

Yeoh points out that teachers are actively encouraged to take part in the many teacher training programmes such as the Education Ministry Coach Programme, Hubs Programme and Frog Teacher Advocate Programme.

The Hub is a central space established in existing schools, public spaces and buildings, teachers in nearby locations can gather to teach, learn and collaborate with other teachers to improve teaching and learning outcomes using the Frog VLE.

Capitalising on artificial intelligence

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

SHAQIB Shaik is a software engineer at Microsoft. He is blind. His artificial intelligence (AI)-driven mobile phone that he helped develop, is able to read out loud a menu sheet as it hovers over the menu. His AI-powered sunglasses, another of his invention, enables him to receive an audio commentary of the scenes observed through the glasses.

We have AI helping Indonesia map out flood-prone areas even as AI helps the UAE to predict inclement sand storms. AI helped Mexico City map out its hitherto uncharted web of bus routes. Watson, the IBM’s supercomputer, helps diagnose and prescribe treatment for cancer at an accuracy unbeaten by human minds. Driverless cars will be soon be a reality, if not already. AI has integrated every aspect of an enterprise’s value chain. Welcome to the world of artificial intelligence!

AI, augmented reality, quantum computing, big data analytics and the Internet of Things will bring extraordinary benefits to those who harness them. In five years, digital products will comprise half of Southeast Asia’s output as against their current minuscule contribution of six per cent. This is emblematic of the speed of digital transformation that is sweeping across the globe in the ever-evolving industrial revolution that has swept the world since the first in the late 18th century.

From smart manufacturing in the United States and Japan, to China’s vision of becoming the innovation centre of AI by 2030, and India’s goal of becoming a global scientific power by 2022, countries around the world are rushing to embrace this inexorable march of Industry 4.0. Malaysia, too, has joined in on the bandwagon, but, much more can be done.

Our businesses must embrace digital transformation if they are to remain relevant in this fast-paced globalised markets. Going digital will enable companies to reduce costs. As much as 4 per cent per year cost-savings can be secured as digital technology increases operational efficiency. Better profit margins, customer loyalty and development of new products are the other benefits from going digital. Is it any wonder then that Amazon deploys over 40,000 robots in its warehouses compared to a very small number five years ago?

Workers at a furniture manufacturing company. Going digital can help increase efficiency and companies can save costs as much as four per cent per year. PIC BY SYARAFIQ ABD SAMAD

The 2018 Microsoft Asia Digital Transformation Study estimates that over the next three years Malaysia would post at least a 20 per cent increase in benefits from digital transformation. Here are some strategies that government and businesses can execute to ensure that leap in benefits.

First, the government must upgrade the digital ecosystem by creating a conducive environment for innovation and digitisation. Legislation fit for the digital world must be enacted. The ecosystem upgrade must make available venture capital and incubators for entrepreneurs. The 2017 Survey by UK’s Cable Co. ranked Malaysia 63rd among 189 countries for broadband speed. This calls for an upgrade of the telecommunications infrastructure.

Partnerships forged between the government, industry, universities and technology suppliers will further strengthen the digital architecture. Germany, for example, establishes new bodies and partnerships to support its digital economy. MDEC should help small medium enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups to use digital technology to solve their business problems. Even better if SMEs enter into joint-ventures or partnerships with technology companies.

Advanced countries including China spend at least 2 per cent of their gross domestic product to fund research and development. China provides support for robotics companies. We should double our research and development expenditures to the levels spent by advanced countries.

Second, develop future-ready skills. The government should redesign the education system to produce a future-ready workforce. Skills in critical thinking, complex problem-solving and creativity will fetch a high premium in 4IR. The integrated teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics should be vigorously pursued to fuel innovation. Schools should have inexpensive access to technology and learning tools to develop skills in digital technology. As in Germany and Switzerland, technical and vocational training should be reoriented to imparting skills in digital technology.

Third, businesses should create a digital culture and structure that eliminate silos for greater agility and collaboration within and without. They must have a dedicated unit to drive the digitalisation processes. Businesses should align their structure, resources, strategy and metrics in their transformation drive. And, they should attract and retain key digital talent for that purpose.

Fourth, organisations should build data management systems to utilise the mountains of data generated within and by customers. Data analysis will offer insights and patterns for the development of new products.

Fifth, go for an incremental approach. Easy, quick wins from adopting digital technology will snowball into a bigger digital transformation.


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Robots, unemployment and immigrants

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

AMAZON has recently introduced Amazon Go, a shop where the customer enters, chooses a product from the shelves, charges the price on a magnetic card and swipes it on the way out, transferring the charge to the customer’s bank account . No queues, no cashiers, fast and easy, and the first shop in Seattle has been a roaring success.

Putting products back on the shelves will soon be fully automated, with robots doing the work previously done by humans. Floor cleaning is already done by a robot, and the aim is to have a fully automated shop, where no human can make mistakes, fall ill, go on strike, take holidays or bring their personal problems to work

The US petrol industry calculates that the staff required at each well will be reduced from 20 to five within three years. Also within three years it is expected that small hotels will have a fully automated reception – guests arrive, swipe their credit card and a machine supplies the room.

We are already accustomed to automated telephone for bookings and reservations, and we ourselves now do tasks at an airport which were previously done by clerks, such as checking in.

In the United States, according to the ABI Research company, the number of industrial robots will jump nearly 300 per cent in less than a decade. The National Economic Research Bureau has reported that for every industrial robot introduced into the workforce, six jobs are eliminated.

In May 2016, the World Bank’s Digital Dividend Report, calculated that replacing low-skilled workers with robots in developing countries would affect two-thirds of jobs.

Today, automation already accounts already for 17 per cent of production and services. It will account for 40 per cent within 15 years, according to World Bank projections.

All this opens up another crucial issue. Labour was once considered an important cost factor in production, and it was the extent to which workers had rights to the resulting benefits that sparked the creation of trade unions, the modern Left and the adoption of universal values such as social justice, transparency and participation, which were the basis of modern international relations.

The relationship between machines and distribution of the benefits of production has inspired several thinkers, philosophers and economists over the last centuries. It was generally assumed that a time would come in which machines would eventually do all production and humankind would be free of work, maintained from the profits generated by machines.

Humanoid robots; the real threat to employment for the large majority of citizens, comes from robotisation file pic

This was, of course, more a dream than a political theory. Yet today, all managers of artificial intelligence and robotic production argue that the superior productivity of robots will reduce costs, thereby enabling greater consumption of goods and services, and this will generate new jobs, easily absorbing those displaced by machines.

Given that the new economy is an intelligence economy based on technical knowledge, people have a future if they are able to adapt to that kind of society, and the new generations are much more attuned to this. But what will a taxi driver who has had no technical education do to recycle himself?

The statistics show that today, when people lose their jobs at a certain age, any new job they may find will almost always be for a lower remuneration. So, robotisation will affect the lower middle class above all, and a new generational divide will be created.

Migration has become a major theme in elections. Trump was elected on a strong anti-immigrant platform, which continues in his administration. Governments in Hungary, Austria, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia are based on refusal of immigrants. All over Europe, from the Nordic countries to France, Netherlands and Germany, anti-immigrant feelings are conditioning governments.

The fear is that immigrants are stealing jobs and resources from citizens in the countries in which they live. However, statistics from the European Union tell us otherwise. The number of non-EU citizens living in Europe (some for a long time) is now 35 million, of whom about eight million are Africans, and seven million Arabs out of a total of 400 million. Those figures also include illegal immigrants.

All statistics show that more than 97 per cent of immigrants are totally integrated, that they pay on average more taxes than locals (of course, they worry about their future) and to date those who do not have a job are about 2.3 million people who are still awaiting a decision on their juridical status.

There is not a single study claiming that immigrants have taken the jobs of Europeans in any significant way. It was the same story with the entry of woman into the labour market. An increasing proportion of women have joined the labour force over the last 30 years, but these increases have not coincided with falling employment rates for men. A study on Brexit demonstrated that immigrants had helped to increase GDP, and that the increase in productivity meant a global increase in employment. But we have reached a point where nobody listens any longer to facts, unless they are convenient.

It is clear that the real threat to employment for the large majority of citizens comes from robotisation, not immigration. No employed person has been fired to be replaced by an immigrant, unless we talk of non-qualified jobs that Europeans do not want in any case.


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