What is the Future of Work?

What is the future of work? Will the jobs we currently occupy still be needed 20 years from now? How can we ensure that we remain relevant in the job market with all the changes that are taking place? These and other questions were answered by Prof. Bitange Ndemo, an Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Nairobi during his zoom talk with staff from CRA.

Former PS Bitange Ndemo.
Photo by: The Star Newspaper

The first area discussed was the fourth industrial revolution. According to Njuguna Ndung’u and Landry Signé, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is ‘characterized by the fusion of the digital, biological, and physical worlds, as well as the growing utilization of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, robotics, 3D printing, the Internet of Things, and advanced wireless technologies, among others.’ In addition, it involves self-driven automated cars, and advanced ERP accounting systems carrying out most accounting processes.

Secondly, Prof. Ndemo outlined how the future of work is likely to be impacted by the 4IR. The 4IR has brought radical shifts in the way we live and work he said. It has brought about disruptive technologies and innovations such as the shift of focus to content, search engines, web browsers; mobility such as mobile platforms and social media; and blockchain technology such as cryptocurrency and cryptography.

‘These changes raise essential questions around the skills we need for future jobs, the quality of those jobs, the support available if we’re unable to work or retire, and what voice we have in shaping these outcomes,” he said.The 4IR has also led to an evolution of data analytics.

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Moving from descriptive analytics explaining what happened, to diagnostic analytics giving more insight as to why things happened on to predictive analytics providing foresight looking at what will happen, when and why. This leads to prescriptive analytics showing simulations and aiding decision making to the highest level of cognitive analytics based on self-learning and completely automated enterprises.

He further outlined the global platforms that exist today and whose business models are likely to be play a major part in the future. Companies such as Facebook which is the world’s biggest media company, yet it does not create content. Uber, the world’s largest transportation company, yet it owns no vehicles and the latest entrant Zoom, the world’s largest video conferencing company, yet it has no teleconferencing infrastructure. These models offer great opportunities for African businesses as they require much less office space/infrastructure to set up.

The opportunities offered by the 4IR are immense. These are found in the automation and gig industry, platformization and algorithmic management, and the ability of workers to work from wherever they are due through the internet and various other platforms.

Addressing CRA, the professor indicated the areas where the Commission can benefit. For instance, in the area of data, the Commission can be able to collect desegregated data on people living in extreme poverty in the country and even deeper at the subnational/county level. Through platforms such as the World Data Lab and its World Poverty Clock the Commission is able to receive data updated by the second on people leaving and entering extreme poverty. Other data available is on weather patterns, agriculture, among others.

Overall, the talk was very informative and the question and answer session highlighted several areas of interest and future discussion. We look forward to more talks of the same nature in future.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution and digitization will transform Africa into a global powerhouse. Njuguna Ndung’u and Landry Signé. Wednesday, January 8, 2020.



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