Being responsible in a digital world


Automation and the future of work

Fujitsu is a signatory to the UN Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The eighth SDG calls for economic growth and productive decent work for all by 2030. But how will this goal be achieved in a world where digital transformation is changing the nature of work?

The rapid progress in computing power will change the way all businesses work. We can embrace change responsibly if we keep one simple premise at the heart of any development – the technology is here to help humans! At Fujitsu we call this Human Centric Intelligence.

Today, digital technologies are moving into the heart of everything we do, changing the way people work, live and how they innovate.

In this new digital society, digital co-creation will become a business norm. Digital co-creation means blending business expertise and digital technology, and creating new shared value together to shape a different future.

The belief I have as a business leader is that if we think of automation as a way to aid our work, not replace us, we’ll be much more likely to see a positive impact on society, understand the future of work and begin to look at how we support people through this transformative period in our history.

The challenge for business is not to ignore or deny the impacts of technology but to collaborate to ensure humans remain at the heart of productive and decent work.

What action must business take?

We must address the digital skills gap and inequalities around access to digital technologies. Young people need to be encouraged to take up STEM subjects in the future, find ways to enhance their creativity, and learn the skills of empathy. In the new digitally transformed world, they will need to be able to understand the science of IT and data, be able to use it imaginatively, and be able to collaborate as never before if they are to thrive in a world in which Artificial Intelligence (AI) is automating many jobs.

The advancements in AI mean that we will need different types of skills; I see automation as unlocking human potential not replacing it. People will be freed from tedious work to add more value and enjoy more fulfilling work.

The world of work will need an environment where creativity is everyone’s core skill.

In the future, we will need to be able to change business models on employment such as the gig economy in a way that supports people, without creating a new working poor.

Flexible work patterns can empower people, especially people who manage caring responsibilities, but work patterns must not penalize the lowest paid.

Digital also means business can access a global talent pool, opening up work to emerging economies where physical location is not a factor. This could have a transformative impact on the aims of the SDG to drive economic empowerment.

All of these factors will in turn trigger ways in which policy makers must think about tax and what is taxable work. As a society, we will need to look at the ideas of rewarding non-work, exploring the concept of a universal basic income.

We must invest now in education structures to help train people for a future where automation and machine learning take away routine tasks. Our education system must adapt to plan for jobs and prepare people that don’t even exist today! Governments must frame a learning curriculum now that drives the future talent needs of business.

It might be tempting to see the future of work as simply a more sophisticated version of the present. But that would be to misunderstand the transformational power of technology and the larger scale impacts this will bring.

We are seeing improvements to working lives emerge everyday. The rise in Internet of Things and Wearable Technology has enormous potential to promote decent work. Remote working employees who are in dangerous situations can use wearable devices to augment their knowledge, allow support staff to monitor vital signs and call out early warnings.

At Fujitsu, it is part of our DNA to think digitally, but every business, no matter what its size or sector, must endeavor to keep pace with this brave new world. Embracing change – be that digital or otherwise, is essential to surviving, and thriving.

Digital is creating new kinds of work for the future. As the pace of the technology evolution quickens, business must understand the impacts and act responsibly to understand how we re-distribute work, re-define work and re-define income.