With 90 per cent of all jobs after 2020 requiring basic digital skills, and with the advent of artificial intelligence (AI), which is estimated to cause a net loss of millions of jobs in the coming years, Finance Minister Harris Georgiades said on that politically and institutionally the world was still not fully prepared to handle this challenge.
Speaking at a conference ‘Digital economy and innovation, a vision of growth`, which was also addressed by the European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel, Georgiades spoke of “a revolution driven by technology”.
“It will affect everyone and it will be massive,” he said.
To counter the challenges, Georgiades said the government would be investing heavily in the sector and aimed to become of the first countries to regulate blockchain technology. In addition, Cyprus will this year be appointing a deputy minister for digital transformation.
Georgiades said talk of the new technological challenge may sound abstract, too technical and remote, it had all been heard before since the beginning of the industrial revolution, and that so far automation had created more jobs than not.
“But expert opinion converges and is convinced that the new wave of technological progress will be stronger and faster than anyone can imagine,” he said.
“However, that consensus breaks down when it comes to assessing whether the strides of technology will continue to drive us in a positive direction, or if will spiral out of control and become a force of disruption.”
Already, he added, there was speculation about the impact on the labour market in 20 or 30 years and whether technology would keep creating new jobs or whether it would make some “not merely unemployed but unemployable, driven out of the jobs market by machines and algorithms”.
“And under such circumstances, will the social and political repercussions remain manageable.”
“I admit I have more questions than answers. In fact, I feel that politically and institutionally the world is still not fully prepared to handle this challenge,” Georgiades added.
Gabriel, in her address to the conference organised by ruling Disy, said that after 2020, some 90 per cent of all jobs would require basic digital skills. In Europe there were currently 350,000 vacancies for ICT specialists, that will become 500,000 in 2020. She said currently only 44 per cent of the EU workforce was equipped to make the grade in a digital Europe.
Referring to AI, she said that it was not clear yet how many jobs would disappear but added that in March the first report with European data will be ready regarding the impact on different professions.
It was very important, she said that EU member states increase the number of graduates in science, engineering and mathematics and strengthen the teaching of digital skills in their curriculum.
Her vision is for Europe was to build a digital society “based on its strength and its core values” and the benefits of the ongoing digital transformation could not be limited to a few individuals “but should be for all”.
Gabriel, who also met with Communications Minister Vassiliki Anastasiadou, also referred to the importance of citizens having trust in the new technologies they use. “Trust, that is our key word,” she said stressing the importance of an adequate legal framework.
Georgiades had referred in his speech to the appointment on Thursday of the island’s first-ever Chief Scientist, Kyriakos Kokkinos, who will head up the new national council for research and innovation.
During the swearing-in ceremony, President Nicos Anastasiades said Cyprus must tap into research and innovation, important drivers for economic growth.
In his speech, Anastasiades said the economy’s recovery in the last few years was partly due to the promotion of research and innovation and the growth of incubators for start-ups.
For his part Kokkinos, an IT professional, said that as Chief Scientist his goal would be to raise investment in research and innovation to 1.5 per cent of GDP over the next five years.
“In order that we transform into an innovative Cyprus, we need to regard innovation as a culture, a way of life, a mindset,” he noted.
Last October the cabinet gave the nod to the establishment of a national research and innovation council to promote research and entrepreneurship.