Wrapping Technology Around People
Indians go to spectacular lengths for the most basic things. Simple tasks are made exceptional only by difficulty in achieving them. Indians are yet to adopt technology on a big scale. The market for technology is yet to develop, unlike developed economies.
1. Access is more important than efficiency for India
2. Limited supply of skilled human resources and physical aids need to make most of the resources - through a combination of both people and Technology.
3. India's demographics demand a different approach to automation and AI. The median age of India will be 28 by 2030. The problem India has is not of age or numbers; it is skills and qualifications. Therefore, India’s approach to automation has to be distinct from that of the US, China or Japan. It has to focus on technologies that augment and raise people skills. Boosting a range of labour intensive, intermediate economic activities that takes care of India's vast unmet demand and shifting people towards more formal characteristics of work. Bridigital is a way of doing just this.
Three key lessons:
1. Reimagining processes using technology and not just plain adoption of Technology- The indirect gains and the correct application of Technology in the right context is important. Technology alone does not solve difficult problems. But when technology is applied in context with reimagined processes, the results can be magical.
Example: When electricity was discovered, the initial twenty years brought only small improvements in productivity. It was only between 1920-1935, the businesses changed to take advantage of new technology(electricity) to show marked improvement in productivity. How? Because electricity, with its ease of distribution allowed for more logical arrangement of machines, making the process faster and efficient. Thus, the indirect gains from changing factory processes far outweighed the direct benefit of the lower energy costs electricity offered. In the Indian context, we need to adopt those technologies that empower the labour rather than substituting it. For example- the nurses and ASHA workers can be given access to medical software to tabulate information and offer basic remedies suggested by software freeing up doctors for more prominent jobs.
2. Nothing is purely digital or purely physical- They have to complement and not substitute each other. Online and physical stores both are relevant.
Global Research says that firms achieve the most significant improvement when humans and machines work together. What comes naturally to people- (making a joke for example) can be tricky for machines and what's straightforward for machines remains virtually impossible for humans. Businesses require both kinds of capabilities.
3. Grasp the shape and sprawl of technological adoption- It should be affordable and the social, legal and the political moment right.
4. As bridigital graduates go on to join other sectors with higher demand and rewards for their skills, less qualified workers can go on the Bridigital ramp. In this vision, the future of training and skilling will be less about specific industries and roles and more about digital skills (understanding how to interact with technology), 21st century skills such as critical thinking, creativity and collaboration and lifelong learning.
Technology provides the opportunity to generate gainful employment instead of investing blindly in labour substituting automation.