INDEPTH: How machines are threatening to take over your job
4 months ago, 22 Mar 07:35
About a decade into the fourth industrial revolution, the debate has been on the impact it will have on education and employment. Kenya seems to be ill-prepared for the revolution, which is set to transform the way humans go about their day-to-day activities. The impact of emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), industrial robots and machine learning on the economy and public policy has been the focus of numerous studies. Humans have been warned that machines which match, and can surpass, human intelligence are coming for their jobs. And while data on the impact of automation and AI in Kenya is still scanty, a report by McKinsey Global Institute titled, Jobs lost, jobs gained: Workforce transitions in a time of automation, released last year estimates 800 million jobs could be wiped out by 2030. Self-driving cars, robots that can deliver products and algorithms that can perform complex tasks with accuracy, speed and at a lower cost are set to replace humans. Kenya faces the most daunting challenge of joblessness in the region. The country’s unemployment rate in 2016 was around 22.17 per cent compared to Uganda’s 4.01 per cent and Tanzania’s 5.24 per cent. Rwanda and Burundi had unemployment rate of 3.29 per cent and 3.05 per cent respectively. The current technological changes are expected to create new set of jobs which will require highly skilled employees. Unemployment is thus likely to spike unless a clear policy on education and training is developed, experts say. The changing landscape requires rethinking of education and learning methods to meet the industry needs. About 80 per cent of jobs will require advanced skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The professor of mechanical engineering approximates that 50 per cent of all work activities today in Kenya can be automated and soon employers might go for robots and algorithms to cut operational costs. The challenge that Kenya faces is that institutions of higher learning have been unable to respond to industry needs adequately. This is partly a result of low interest in STEM fields and an outdated system and curriculum. For instance, in the academic year 2016/17 at the University of Nairobi 5,324 students enrolled for engineering courses. This is very low compared with 9,012 who were admitted for business administration, 14,366 enrolled for humanities (arts) and around 12, 105 who joined education (arts) programmes. The trend is replicated across all private and public universities in the country, according to a report released by the Ministry of Education last year titled: State of University Education in Kenya Report 2016. According to the report, STEM courses account for less than 15 per cent of the enrolments despite universities having the highest cluster of these programmes. In contrast, 22 per cent of students enrolled for business administration while education (arts) and humanities took 15 per cent and nine per cent respectively. The future also demands middle level skills for unpredictable tasks that cannot be automated. Experts say that although high skills will be in ...
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