Video transcript: Bridging the digital divide

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Nicolas Schmit [00:00:06] We are creating a divide in our society between those who are part of the new economy and those who are not able to join in.

Carl Frey [00:00:16] What we learn from past episodes of technological change is a lot of jobs being replaced by technology, but long term benefits for the next generations can be immense.

Carol Stubbings [00:00:27] It's really important that people are open, to want to learn, they're open to being upskilled themselves, because the reality is, what we don't want, is to leave a whole swathe of society behind.

Laurent Probst [00:00:41] It's not a training expense anymore, it's an investment for the future.

Blair Sheppard [00:00:47] Upskilling is a global issue because technology is pervasive. It just turns out it's slightly different from place to place.

Nicolas Schmit [00:00:54] Everybody is affected by this transformation. Therefore, we have to work out a strategy.

Carol Stubbings [00:01:02] If we embrace upskilling, if we take ownership for ourselves. I do think we can write the narrative for what the future looks like.

[New world. New skills.]

Voice over [00:01:18] Our jobs are changing and fast, creating uncertainty and challenges for the future.

Bob Moritz [00:01:31] The biggest societal challenge is the future of work, as well as what is the workforce of the future and the implications to a country's citizens in terms of whether there are opportunities for them in the future.

Carl Frey [00:01:43] According to our estimates, roughly 47 percent of jobs are at risk of being automated over the forthcoming decades. And as a result of that, we could potentially see rising income disparities as we've seen in past technological revolutions when old jobs disappeared as well. The Industrial Revolution caused enormous disruption for people who lived through it as their jobs and incomes disappeared. And I think we are at a similar time in history where we're seeing a lot of jobs being replaced by technology.

Richard Edelman [00:02:15] People are governed by their fears at the moment; by two to one they think that the pace of innovation is too fast. Four out of five actually believe that their economic circumstances are going to be worse 10 years ahead. Those are unprecedented numbers, and it goes down to, 'I basically am afraid that machines are going to take my job.'

Carol Stubbings [00:02:32] What we don't want is to leave a whole swathe of society behind, which will create much bigger disparity than there is today in the world. You can't protect jobs, but you can protect people.

Carol Stubbings [00:02:39] And you have a responsibility to protect people and provide them with the right skills and the right training to enable them to be successful within your organisation.

Voice over [00:02:56] So what are some of the social risks if we ignore the challenges of automation?

Carl Frey [00:03:03] Technological change always brings disruption. So that means old disappearing, new types of jobs being created, and in its early days, it also means that inequality can rise as a result of that, because we see that it takes time for people to acquire new skills to move into new productive sectors of the economy. And that can potentially also bring about a period of social unrest.

Nicolas Schmit [00:03:25] It will harm our economies because we are not able to transform our economies, our companies, but also our public services enough, and rapidly enough.

Voice over [00:03:39] Key to preparing everyone to live and work in a digital world will be upskilling. But what do we mean by upskilling?

Blair Sheppard [00:03:46] Upskilling is about preparing people for a technology based future that has both to do with enhancing the skills people have in the digital world and increasing their capacity to be good citizens and good leaders, and actually increasing our ability to understand what's happening to ourselves and manage it effectively.

Carol Stubbings [00:04:06] Now, what we're not saying is that everybody needs to be a data scientist, but what we are saying, is that actually in order to survive, not thrive, but just survive in the future of work, you really need to understand the implications that technology has. And you need to be able to work with technology in a way to make it more meaningful.

Lacina Kone [00:04:29] There comes a need for real upskilling at all level. If you take the category of the active populations who need to learn new skills, new graduates need also vocational training and you also have a high level of illiteracy in Africa, how do you match that?

Kate Matthews [00:04:45] From an organisational point of view, helping people develop a growth mindset, understanding that learning doesn't stop when you leave school, it doesn't stop after your first round of post university training, it doesn't stop after your first management role.

Tamal Bhattacharya [00:05:02] Upskilling means making yourself relevant for the future, adding more skills to your skill set so that you are improving, there's a focus on continuous improvement.

Blair Sheppard [00:05:17] Upskilling actually is a global issue because technology is pervasive, it just turns out it's slightly different from place to place. So if you think about Africa, where there's a huge number of kids and a huge number of youth about to enter the workforce, we have a massive educational need and new job creation. But if you think about sort of older countries like in Europe and the United States, we have a need for radical upskilling and retooling of people as the economy changes.

Carol Stubbings [00:05:43] Government has a responsibility to society to really make sure that people have the right skills to enter the workforce.

Carl Frey [00:05:51] Governments have an interest in people upskilling because otherwise tax receipts are going to decline and governments are going to face deteriorating public finances and potentially even social unrest if large groups are left back.

Voice over [00:06:07] Some governments have already started to address the issue of upskilling. In Luxembourg, they've created the Skills Bridge project to aid the development of the national workforce.

Nicolas Schmit [00:06:17] Either you close your eyes and then you have a lot of losers of this technological change or you say, ‘OK, technology is there, now we have to do the best for people.’

Laurent Probst [00:06:32] So the Skills Bridge project was about providing any kind of companies, SMEs, large scale companies, with the right technical and financial support to upskill their people according to their own strategy.

Nicolas Schmit [00:06:50] I think it's good for companies, it's good for Luxembourg's economy and it's good for people.

Voice over [00:07:00] In Africa, the technological revolution is also bringing challenges.

Lacina Kone [00:07:05] Africa has benefited a lot from the use of technology. The rate of growth in the new technology area, in terms of job creation, is growing faster than the traditional job. And of course, that creates a problem, which is the upskilling. In any policy being crafted for a population, the civil society has to be part of it. It has to be user centric, which is a people centric, but the first stakeholder is the government. Appropriate reform and education is important, appropriate reform and vocational training is important, appropriate reform even for the current government workers, which are active workers, is important.

Voice over [00:07:49] Governments may have a strategic role to play in upskilling their citizens, but what does it mean for businesses and organisations?

Richard Edelman [00:07:57] The existential crisis for business at the moment is the prospect of loss of jobs, and the idea that automation is going to actually replace us and cause our incomes to drop. And in so doing, business needs to retrain and upskill its own people and be part of the community's effort to more broadly reskill the community.

Voice over [00:08:20] Some businesses have already started the journey, upskilling their employees to meet the challenges of automation.

Kate Matthews [00:08:27] Citibank is committed to developing our employees because apart from a social responsibility to do that, which we do feel because we employ over 200,000 people around the world, it makes complete commercial sense to ensure that they're able to perform their roles to the best of their ability. We want to be the best for our clients and that's the only way we can do that by having the most readily skilled employees. It's also easier in many ways to use the institutional knowledge that you already have and layer on that more skills rather than bringing in new people from the outside.

Kate Matthews [00:09:00] I don't think upskilling is a challenge that we can tackle entirely alone as an organisation. There's clearly a connection between educational institutions, organisations and government in terms of how we develop the populace as a whole around this.

Bob Moritz [00:09:19] The PwC approach to upskilling as a comprehensive one. First, you have to create the environment for people to want to learn, adopt and evolve. And that requires the right leadership, first to make sure we're motivating people to opt in to the opportunities to be in a continuous learning mindset. Second is, you do have to provide the training and the skills and the coaching necessary for people to evolve and advance and to have both the job security and the job opportunities that will be availing themselves in the future. Last but not least, you've got to make sure that you've got the right mechanisms in place, its assets, the curriculum, so to speak. And those are all the things that I think are very important to come together as one. So it's a very comprehensive solution that we're looking to adopt globally, not in one country or another.

Carol Stubbings [00:10:09] We recognised that it's absolutely critical to upskill our own people. We've invested heavily in technology. We want to make sure that that technology is being utilised. You know, technology can take away a lot of the mundane of our everyday work. And a lot of our people don't necessarily want to do the work the way we did it five years ago.

Tamal Bhattacharya [00:10:28] It makes my life simpler because it's taking away some of those manual elements of my job, day to day job and lets me focus on building relationships and solving important problems for the clients.

Carol Stubbings [00:10:41] So actually giving them the tools and the ability to disrupt their day to day work is actually quite exciting for them. And we call that kind of citizen-led transformation. People feel like they're the ones making the difference.

Bob Moritz [00:10:59] So we're our own use case, I think there's a lot of lessons learned that PwC can bring to corporates, countries, education systems and other organisations that I think will come together to help solve this problem.

Voice over [00:11:14] With the pace of change moving so quickly, now's the time to build a movement to address the issue of upskilling.

Richard Edelman [00:11:22] Business leaders have to stand up and say publicly that this reskilling is the most urgent matter in front of us as leaders, that we must actually take on not only our own workforce, but more broadly, communities of need, and those might include people who you wouldn't imagine.

Carol Stubbings [00:11:44] No one organisation has all the answers, and no one organisation can solve this huge issue on their own. And that's why it's so important not just to use the PwC network, but to work with our clients, work with organisations, work with governments, to really collectively get behind this is as a problem and try and do something about it.

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Colm Kelly

Colm Kelly

Global Corporate Sustainability Leader, PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited

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Bethan Grillo

Managing Director, Global Corporate Sustainability, PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited

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