Archive for February, 2018

IP undermines equity, progress

Monday, February 26th, 2018
A lab technician demonstrating DNA testing at the Puntland Forensic Centre in Somalia. The World Trade Organisation rules disallow Indian generic manufacturers from exporting their medicines to Africa and other poor countries. AFP PIC

OVER the last few decades, people in the developing world have been rejecting the intellectual property (IP) regime as it has been increasingly imposed on them following the establishment of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), including its trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPs) regime.

IP rights (IPRs) have been enforced through ostensible free-trade agreements (FTAs) and investment treaties among two or more partners.

Despite their ostensible rationale, the IP standards that rich country governments insist on have never been intended to maximise scientific progress and technological innovation. Rather, the IPR regime serves to maximise the profits of influential pharmaceutical and other companies by conferring them with exclusive monopoly rights.

In the pushback, initially led by Nelson Mandela soon after he became South African president under the new dispensation in 1994, developing countries have targeted access to essential medicines. Thus, the 2005 Indian law to conform to WTO’s TRIPs safeguarded access to generic equivalents, as allowed for by the public health exception to TRIPs.

However, WTO rules disallow Indian generic manufacturers from exporting their medicines to Africa and other poor countries lacking the necessary pharmaceutical manufacturing capacities and capabilities. Even if the African countries could produce the drugs domestically, they would be more expensive as they would lack the economies of scale required to lower costs in their relatively small economies.

In Innovation, Intellectual Property and Development, Joseph Stiglitz, Dean Baker and Arjun Jayadev have shown that the economic institutions and laws protecting knowledge in Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development economies not only poorly govern economic activity, but are also ill-suited to developing countries’ needs, especially the global commitment to achieving universal health care of Agenda 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ironically, while the case for more openness in sharing knowledge is compelling, “neo-liberals”, who typically claim the moral high ground in opposing monopolies and related market distortions, have effectively served to extend and strengthen property rights and attendant monopolies.

From an economic perspective, knowledge is considered a global public good, as the marginal cost of anyone using it is zero. Growth of knowledge can presumably improve wellbeing.

Despite lack of evidence, the IP advocacy argument has been that market forces “undersupply” knowledge owing to the poor incentives for research and innovation. The usual claim is that this “market failure” is best corrected by providing a private monopoly through property rights for new knowledge, for example through enforceable patent rights. Private IP protection is presumed to be the only way to reward, and thus encourage research and innovation.

The trio argue that the IP regime has been much more problematic than expected, even in rich countries. They show how the 2013 United States Supreme Court decision that naturally occurring genes cannot be patented has shown that the IP regime impedes, rather than stimulates research by limiting access to knowledge.

Following the ruling, innovation accelerated, leading to better diagnostic tests (for example, for genes related to breast cancer) at much lower cost. Stiglitz, Baker and Jayadev focus on three alternatives to motivate and finance research in the US context. First, through centralised mechanisms to directly support research. Second, by decentralising direct funding, for example via tax credits, government bodies or research foundations or institutions can reward successful innovations or findings.

The patent system rewards legal ownership of innovation, but impedes the use of that knowledge by others, thus reducing its potential benefits. Having a creative commons, for example open-source software, will maximise the flow of knowledge.

The authors recommend that developing economies use all these approaches to promote learning and innovation. They view the gap between developing and developed countries as involving a gap in knowledge comparable to the gap in resources.

Hence, to improve economic welfare in the world, they urge diffusion of knowledge from developed to developing countries, as conventional social scientists have urged as part of modernisation theory for more than half a century.

Often, dense “patent thickets”, requiring many patents, are increasingly stifling innovation. Payments to lawyers and patent investigators exceed those to scientific researchers in such cases, with research often oriented to extend, broaden and leverage monopoly rights due to patents.

One perverse consequence has been patent “trolling” by speculators who buy up patents, which they think has a chance of being necessary for any product or process innovation. Thus becoming gatekeepers like the mythical trolls, they effectively block innovation unless their price is met.

Ironically, while the case for more openness in sharing knowledge is compelling, “neo-liberals”, who claim the moral high ground in opposing monopolies and related market distortions, have effectively served to extend and strengthen property rights and attendant monopolies.

Powerful corporate and developed economy government lobbies have influenced the IP regime, for instance by opposing competing rights associated with nature, biodiversity or even traditional knowledge.

Hence, recent ostensible FTAs have extended IPRs to cover “biologics”, i.e. naturally occurring substances, such as insulin for those suffering from diabetes, which is derived from mammals.

Thus, over the last few decades, the evolving IP regime has erected more barriers to widespread use of new knowledge. The current IP regime serves to maximise profits for a few monopolies rather than the progress and welfare of the many.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram.

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60,000 Chinese tourists celebrate CNY in Sabah

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

KOTA KINABALU: Some 430,000 tourists from China visited Sabah last year and contributed more than RM1 billion in tourism receipts, with an average spending of over RM 2,500 per person.

Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Kota Kinabalu, Liang Caide said around 60,000 Chinese tourists spent their Chinese New Year holidays in Sabah this year.

“Sabah has become one of the most popular travel destinations for Chinese tourists.

“There are more than 100 direct flights connecting Kota Kinabalu to various cities in China every week.”

At the same time, Liang said the number of Sabahans visiting China for business, tourism, visiting friends and relatives  had increased.

“Last year, the Consulate General  issued 25,000 Chinese visas,” he said at the Chinese New Year celebration organized by Kota Kinabalu Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KKCCCI) here yesterday.

Liang said the cooperation between China and Sabah had created vast opportunities.

“More and more China firms have ventured into infrastructure development, hotel and residential property development, durian plantation and various other projects in Sabah.”

He said the prospect was bright for exchanges and cooperation between Sabah and China in the future.

On another note, Liang said KKCCCI was one of the oldest Chinese associations in Sabah, with a history of over a century.

He hoped  KKCCCI members would seize the opportunities arising from the Belt and Road development and continue to contribute towards the cooperation between Malaysia and China.

Meanwhile, KKCCCI president Datuk Michael Lui Yen Sang urged his members to utilize the chamber as a platform to consolidate and share resources in order to boost their competitiveness in the business arena.

Lui believed that a change in mindset was vital to keep up with the changing business trends and avoid being left out.

He said KKCCCI played a role as the bridge of communication between the government and the business sector.

As such, he said the chamber would continue to convey to the government key issues affecting the community and seek rectification on administrative deviations on behalf of the Chinese community and businesses.

Lui also said the chamber remained committed in promoting Chinese education and culture.

Additionally, he urged members to put more efforts into transforming KKCCCI into one of the most influential business organizations in the state.

He said the establishment of the chamber was to promote cooperation and collaboration among members, as well as to facilitate economic development and inculcate loyalty to the state and nation.

He said chamber members should actively participate in nation building and social development of our country.

“We pledge to continue our full support and assistance to the government in economic development and the promotion of unity and harmony among the ethnic groups.

“We are committed to work hand in hand with the government to ensure continuous political stability, economic progress and prosperity.”

On another note, Lui said the Chinese consulate had been actively promoting friendship between Malaysia and China since its inception.

by Chok Sim Yee.

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Spreading community love on campus

Sunday, February 25th, 2018
A student selling gift packages consisting of a combination of fresh rose, helium balloon, a box of chocolates and a card at the Valentine’s Day booth ‘Love . Enactus Valentine’s Day Sales’.

LOVE was in the air for everyone on Valentine’s Day, celebrated last week, including by the campus fraternity. At universities and colleges around the globe, student associations organised many events to celebrate the day to spread love among students and academic faculties.

In Malaysia, students showed their love of community on campus during the day. It came in the form of volunteering, relationship awareness, as well as organising simple and fun activities with friends.

Nottingham University in Malaysia organised a talk on relationships, themed “But the Greatest of All is Love”, on Feb 8.

According to Vinsensius Felix Putra Andy, or fondly known as Felix, the talk was on the introduction of tools to conduct moral reasoning and judgment, which is the basis for true Catholic relationships.

Vinsensius Felix Putra Andy.

“We decided to choose this topic so that our members are exposed to these concepts, especially since it is Valentine’s Day and this could be in the minds of people. The talk was led by Father Clarence Devadass, a Catholic priest,” said Felix, who is the chairman of the Catholic Student’s Society.

Felix, 21, who is in Year 3 of Pharmaceutical and Health Sciences, said as the event served to deepen the moral understanding on relationships, they could support their friends who are dating; by encouraging them if they are on the right track or advise them if they are not.

“Furthermore, the Catholic community on campus will benefit from the talk as well, as moral judgment is important to strengthen our faith so that we do not fall into immoral and unethical relationships.”

Hani Nadhirah Azaman

Hani Nadhirah Azaman, 20, said Nottingham Malaysia students are very supportive of each other. Thus, she grabbed this opportunity to organise a Valentine’s Day event “Love. Enactus Valentine’s Day Sales” by using Enactus UNMC as a platform to execute the event.

The main purpose of the Valentine’s Day sales event was to spread love and also encourage self-love.

“The Valentine’s Day event was a collaboration with the university’s student association, in which we sold gift packages consisting of a combination of fresh rose, helium balloon, a box of chocolates and a card.

“Students and staff could pre-order their choice of gift package via our promotional booth the week before and a few days before the actual event day,” said Hani Nadhirah.

Enactus UNMC also provided free delivery service with self-written message on the card for a personal touch.

“On Feb 14, we sold the same items to ensure that students who did not get a chance to pre-order them could buy something for their significant others,” she added.

She believes that the event would make the sender and recipient feel special and strengthen the bond between partners, friends and even between students and lecturers.

“Spreading love will radiate positive vibes around the campus. To achieve this goal, our main objective was to sell as many gift packages as a token of appreciation among students and lecturers.”

Shahrrathey Laxme Balasubaramaniam, 23, from SEGi College Subang Jaya, organised an event called #itsOK2bSingle, to promote the ideology of love is for all and not only for couples.

Among the activities are Valentine’s performance, games on speed dating, sales of roses, baked goods, scented rose soap, free make-up session and a Valentine’s photo booth.

“We tried to reinforce the idea that single people should not feel bad about not having a partner and to promote self-love and appreciate what we have.

“If given another chance next year, we would like to throw a Valentine’s Splash Party for singles and couples,” she said.

Taylor’s University Community Service Initiatives (CSI) Volunteers vice-president Rachel Wong Pui Ee, 20, said being a communication student at Taylor’s University added value to her involvement in community-centric events as she was able to use critical thinking and elements of mass communications in the planning process.

“Although they can be challenging, as it takes a lot of time and a lot of effort, I stand firm on the belief that passion is key in helping me develop my skills through experience and, more importantly, contribute to the less fortunate.

“This is where I am able to evaluate what the less privileged needed and how exactly we can cater to their needs,” said the first-year student in Mass Communication (Public Relations and Marketing).

Nottingham University in Malaysia organised a talk on relationships led by Father Clarence Devadass (fourth from right).

Rachel said its current project, “One-Stop Centre: New Year, New Clothes”, revolves around the idea of giving and spreading love, as well as positivity.

She said the recent launch of the CSI One-Stop Centre started CSI’s efforts to serve as a collection centre for donated goods and a platform to enquire about CSI Volunteers and community service for the Taylor’s community.

The “One-Stop Centre: New Year, New Clothes” project’s purpose is to donate unworn and pre-loved clothes to underprivileged children through CSI Volunteers and kick-start the One-Stop Centre’s efforts.

“Additionally, a visitation will be made to the children’s home to conduct some activities and give clothes to them.

“If we are able to enjoy our festive seasons, it is only fair that the less privileged communities are able to do so as well.

“This project is also aimed at shedding light to our One-Stop Centre, where we want to let the community know that they can donate or give back to the community all-year-round.

“We encourage the Taylor’s community to donate necessities and spread love through this platform.

“From previous CSI activities, I believe that everyone can agree that the most rewarding thing is to see the smiles on the faces of our beneficiaries.

“Spreading love is not only in the form of monetary gifts or quantity, it is the initiative, the mindset, the heart and how we can be an inspiration to them, as well as be inspired by them,” she said.

BLOOM co-founder Marcus Liaw Jia Yoong, 21, said he and his partner Kelly Siaw started up an online florist, BLOOM, to allow everyone to show their forever lasting love through affordable and top quality bear bouquet.

“In conjunction with Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year, I approached CSI to collaborate as I was intrigued by the ‘New Year, New Clothes’ project.

“Since Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year are just few days apart, it would be good opportunity for BLOOM and CSI to collaborate and contribute to orphans who would need new clothes for the festive season.

By Zulita Mustafa.

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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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Making schools safe

Sunday, February 25th, 2018
Safety experts have repeatedly reminded us that accidents do not just happen, they are caused. NSTP FILE PIC
By NST - February 15, 2018 @ 10:01am

NUR Afini Roslan of SMK Tuanku Abdul Rahman in Gemas, Negri Sembilan died under very tragic circumstances. Gruesome is perhaps the right diction. A blade came loose from a ride-on lawnmower and struck the 14-year-old’s head, slicing open part of her skull. She died at the scene of the accident. Two other students were injured.

This gruesome tragedy brings to the forefront, again, the need for schools to adopt good safety procedures. Safety experts have repeatedly reminded us that accidents do not just happen, they are caused. The Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) webpage of the International Association of Drilling Contractors puts it thus: somebody or several somebodies cause accidents.

We agree.

When we look for the cause of an accident, we will eventually find out that somebody, somewhere slipped up. The lawnmower accident in the Gemas school is no different. Many questions will need to be answered, chief among them are: why was the ride-on lawnmower on the field when students were there? If the contractor was given clearance to mow the lawn, why were the students allowed on the field? Was the run-on lawnmower well-maintained? Did the contractor have a good safety track record? We do not want to put the cart before the horse, but answers to these and other related questions must go to form the lessons-learned safety report. The past is a good teacher, but we must not allow a flawed past to design our future. Otherwise, we will repeatedly repeat history.

This notwithstanding, lessons from a single accident does not emplace a safety culture in schools. Or any other institutions for that matter. Culture must perforce be inculcated on a daily basis by a planned and systematic approach. To signal the importance of safety in the school environment, it must be led by the principal. Like the chief executive officer does in the corporate world, so must the principal. The school is, after all, a workplace of sorts. The principal can, of course, be assisted by a safety officer. Such an officer can assess all the significant risks in the school and customise safety measures to blunt them.

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Niosh) is at hand to help, too. It has been running an Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) in School programme in collaboration with the Human Resources Ministry and the Education Ministry since 2015. Sadly, only 50 schools have participated in the programme thus far.


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Tawau school destroyed in fire

Sunday, February 25th, 2018
Tawau: A total of 139 pupils, 23 teachers and three staff of SK Sentosa at Mile 4, Jalan Apas, here, lost their school when its two wooden buildings were destroyed in a fire at about 12.15pm on Friday.

The school, built 17 years ago, was the first to be destroyed by fire this year.

The school’s administrative assistant, Rosdiana Malla, said she was resting in the mini hall when she was awakened by a secondary school student informing her of a fire in the school compound.

“The student asked me, ‘Isn’t the school office on fire?’ I rushed out of the hall and saw a fire was spreading.

Before the incident, there was a blackout around noon but I thought it was normal.

Shocked and panicked, I ran away from the area and asked a parent to call firefighters.

I then contacted the headmaster,” she said.

Rosdiana said she was alone in the office at the time of the incident as the school session had already ended and two of her counterparts had left for Friday prayers while another had gone home.

Headmaster Sofiah Md Ali said the destroyed building on the left housed the general office, teacher’s office, library, mini hall, store and textbooks storage, while the building on the right housed recovery rooms and four classrooms.

She said she was saddened by the incident although she joined the school only in 2012, adding that it carried much sentimental values to the students and teachers as is had been occupied since the 1990s.

“We were not able to save any important belongings…everything was gone,” she said.

According to Sofiah, SK Sentosa is scheduled to move to the SMK Kabota old building as their new school building and the army had agreed to assist them in transporting their school equipment on March 2.

“Next week is supposed to be our last week here because we had received an approval letter from the Education Ministry to move to the SMK Kabota old building.

“We were in the process of moving out and had already packed some of our belongings,” she added.

Sofiah said they lost teachers’ personal files, students’ files, four computers, 40 1Malaysia laptops, a cart, a safety box, LCD and a table, adding that textbooks and library books were moved earlier.

Meanwhile, district Fire and Rescue Department Chief Sharudy Delamin said four fire engines with nine firefighters were deployed to the scene after receiving a distress call at 12.18pm.

He said when the team arrived, the two buildings which were only three metres apart were 95 per cent burnt.

“The fire spread very quickly because the buildings were made from wood.

We immediately conducted a cooling operation to save another building which was seven metres away from the two.

“Luckily, the school session had already ended and no casualties were reported in the incident,” he said.

The cause of the fire and total losses are still under investigation.

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Conduct regular safety audit

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

THE roof collapse at SK Jerangau, Dungun, Terengganu on Feb 20 shows that safety must be improved in schools.

Although there was no injury or fatality, we must bear in mind that accidents in schools could cause serious injury or death.

Another incident in which a Form 2 student in Gemas died when a blade from a ride-on lawnmower struck her in the head is a clear example.

Death is preventable only if safety measures are in place and adhered to.

The authorities, especially the Public Works Department, must work with schools to carry out safety audits.

The audits can be conducted every five years in new schools and annually in older ones.

Schools also must have a safety and health committee as required under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (Osha) 1994, which states that a workplace with more than 40 employees must set up the committee.

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) will continue to create awareness on occupational safety and health (OSH) in collaboration with the Education Ministry. I hope the effort will receive strong support from teachers, staff and students.

The collapsed roof at SK Jerangau in Dungun, Terengganu, on Feb 20. FILE PIC

All workplaces have hazards and risks that need to be addressed. It is the responsibility of those at the workplaces, including teachers and students in schools, to identify and take measures to prevent accidents and deaths.

Schools must participate in the “OSH in School” programme to raise awareness on safety and health.

More than 50 schools are taking part in the programme, held in collaboration with the Human Resources and Education Ministries since 2015.

The programme is comprehensive as it considers schools as places of work and therefore are subjected to the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994 (Osha 1994).

Osha 1994 ensures the safety, health and welfare of the people at work, protects those in the workplace and provides a conducive working environment in accordance with workers’ psychological and physiological needs.

A safe school does not only mean that it is free from disciplinary problems and crimes such as bullying, gangsterism and drug abuse, but also all its facilities must be safe.

Students should be educated on safety and health culture so that they understand the concept and embrace it.

We must involve the students as they can act as the eyes and ears of the school management when they implement good OSH practices, including hazard identification, risk assessment and risk control.

If a good OSH system is in place and teachers, staff and students are well-trained, they will immediately alert the administration when they notice something that could pose a danger to them and others, such as exposed power cables, rusty goalposts, leaked chemicals or workers not adhering to safety regulations.


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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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‘More AI experts needed to transform public sector’

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

PUTRAJAYA: The public service sector will need more data scientists and data management experts as part of the Public Service Transformation (PST) 2.0 programme.

Public Service Department (PSD) director-general Tan Sri Zainal Rahim Seman said the government would need more civil servants with skills compatible with artificial intelligence.

“We have to face challenges from mega trends, such as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0). We cannot be left behind by assuming that transformation will happen by itself.

“Malaysia is going through urbanisation. What will happen if Malaysia becomes more urbanised? What generation will live in these cities? How can we provide services to urban people? What will happen to rural areas? These are the things that we have to think about.

Public Service Department (PSD) director-general Tan Sri Zainal Rahim Seman. Pic by NSTP/AHMAD IRHAM MOHD NOOR

“Hence, we need to equip ourselves with skills that are compatible with artificial intelligence, as well as have knowledge in big data management and Internet of Things.

“That’s why we need more data scientists and data management experts. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak once said the public service scheme of today may not be relevant in the future,” he said during a special press interview at his office.

Zainal said the department would need to create more relevant jobs in the future and optimise resources.

He said people should not be afraid of becoming jobless as the use of robots increased because there were jobs in other fields.

“Although we expect more robots to replace humans, they (the robots) still need to be managed by humans. Hence, it is important to have data and robotic knowledge.

“Maybe there will be better jobs with better income in the future because there will be demand for data scientists and data management experts.

“These are among the challenges we need to deal with. We need to develop a framework and know the people’s priorities.”

He said another important element in PST 2.0 was the collaboration between parties in implementing the government’s programmes.

“The government cannot work alone to make a programme successful as we need participation from everybody. For instance, we may need non-governmental organisations or experts from community-based programmes to beautify and clean community areas, and no longer rely on local authorities.


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Unique new year welcome

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018
Choong and his pupils posing happily with their creation, which is made using traditional calligraphy brush, ink and paper. - SAMUEL ONG/The Star

Choong and his pupils posing happily with their creation, which is made using traditional calligraphy brush, ink and paper. – SAMUEL ONG/The Star

TIME does fly. In a blink of an eye, it is already time to usher in the Year of the Dog.

Chinese vernacular schools are getting into the festive mode by incorporating their own joyous activities into this time-honoured festival.

SJK (C) Kepong 1 arranged a fun activity for its Year Six pupils, where they were required to create a picture of this year’s zodiac using their calligraphy skills.

Pupils involved in the project had to draw parts of a dog on pieces of red calligraphy paper and combine them to make a whole picture of the 11th zodiac to welcome the year of the Earth Dog and bring luck and prosperity to staff and pupils at the school.

“This school has over 200 pupils who are non-Chinese. The activity lets them in on traditional Chinese culture and teaches them how to appreciate the beauty of it.

“It also teaches them about the 12 zodiac animals and their meaning,” she says.

Such activities gives the school a boost of the festive spirit as well, she adds.

Being part of the project exposed Desiree Amelda Ng further to her “Chinese side”.

Desiree, whose father is Chinese and mother is Malay, says she was happy to be included in the fun project which helped her understand Chinese culture.

The hardworking pupil, who is looking forward to gorging on pineapple tarts, says she will find the time to study for UPSR in between visits to friends and family during the festive season.

“I will be visiting my ah ma (grandmother),” says Desiree fondly.However, fellow classmate Justin Santosh Mahendran says he will use his time for the Chinese New Year break to have some downtime.

“Though it is my UPSR year, I want to take some time to have fun and spend it with the family,” says the bespectacled boy whose father is Indian and mother is Chinese.

But I do hope to score straight As in my UPSR, he adds.

Justin will be returning to his grandmother’s place in Johor to meet his relatives.

Though already feeling the pressure to score well in UPSR, Ng Li Xiang says he will take it easy during the break.

“I think I will be busy having fun instead of studying. Chinese New Year is a time to be happy and spend time with family,” he says.

Li Xiang will be staying in Kuala Lumpur for Chinese New Year where his grandmother resides.

Lee Yang En, whose family hails from Johor, says she can’t wait to enjoy some Chinese New Year delicacies and receive some ang pows.

However, she says she will study everyday and attend tuition for about two hours a day throughout the festive season.

“But I do remind myself that I must learn how to relax sometimes,” she shares.

Choong Chee Wah, the teacher in charge of the activity, says the pupils were very happy and cooperative when carrying out the project.

“The school is doing this to bring out the festive mood among pupils, to show them that Chinese New Year is here,” says the English teacher whose Chinese New Year wish is for his pupils to get good grades and for the world to be a peaceful place.

He shares that he was a little nervous that the artwork would come out the wrong way, but is now satisfied with the outcome.


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