On #MegaBites, a discussion with Nandan Nilekani, Chairman EkStep Foundation and former Chairman of the Unique Identification Development Authority on disruptive technology and its impact in the life of the common man.
On an individual level, Nandan Nilekani says disruption is changing jobs and the knowledge required to do these jobs. He gives the example of taxi-drivers having to learn technology with the introduction of Ola, Uber as disruptors.
He says new ideas emerge on a daily basis and the skills that are of significance today may not remain the same tomorrow.
Disruption is also seen the sectors of media, education and health. Media revenue has shifted from the hands of newspapers to internet giants such as Facebook and Google. Software has become core to the running of most business.
Financial technology is a big example as mobile money, e-wallets are even reducing the relevance of debit and credit cards.
Is it likely to start affecting jobs and livelihoods? Nilekani says the mobile phone has become a bank branch and thus, need for an office and administrative block has gone down. In the automobile sector, self-driving and electric cars are eliminating the need for people to drive cars. He foresees a rise in job opportunities in the logistics and home delivery of retail sector.
In response to the question if India is ready for this, he said that this is a global phenomenon. Along with outsourcing, automation is another reason for changing the nature of jobs. In this world scenario, India would not be able to follow the path of China by relying only on manufacturing to create jobs. Manufacturing cannot happen just because it is in your agenda, but only if the market can absorb it.
Nilekani cites the example of Adidas — When Addidas decided to set up to two robotic factories in Germany with 600 employees and the factories now produce stock equivalent to its factory in Asia with one million employees, Asian countries like China and Cambodia are losing out by holding on to manufacturing as the driver of job creation and growth.
In a macroeconomic level, the effects of disruption can be handled only if the population is literate and familiar with the digital world. It is important to learn continuously and adapt to the changes around us. Moreover, he stressed on the importance of having social security mechanisms to deal with job transition and unemployment. The burden of job creation should be shifted to the private sector and the government should be responsible for creating an enabling environment for businesses to grow and prosper. On the other hand, our education sector – both primary level and higher education- needs to be revamped on an urgent basis to enable young people to meet their aspirations.
On a personal level, Nilekani says the greatest disruption he witnessed was how technology has moved from an enterprise into the hands of the consumer – the centre of gravity of technology usage has moved.