Of all the speeches at today’s G20 Summit in Kohima, what stuck with me most was Rupa Dutta (Principal Economic Adviser, DPIIT) comments on preparing our next generation for the future of work and the opportunity it presents for the North-East Region
The tribal and indigenous people of North-East India have adapted to 230 years of industrial revolutions in just one generation. Our ability to embrace the challenges and opportunities of this unique and rapid transformation makes the region a compelling investment destination.
We find ourselves amidst the Fourth Industrial Revolution, characterized by the fusion of physical, digital, and biological technologies, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and biotechnology. There is a significant shift in the jobs landscape due to AI and Automation, and it presents us with an opportunity to reshape the future of work. The truth is, the future of work is already here, and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that we harness the potential of these groundbreaking technologies.
In order to adapt to this rapidly changing landscape, it is essential for businesses, governments, and individuals to collaborate and invest in skill development, education, and innovation. By nurturing a workforce equipped with the necessary digital literacy, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills, we can ensure that the benefits of AI and Automation are shared by all, and that people are not left behind in this technological revolution.
I present seven essential future of work skills and explore how North-East India’s unique context nurtures their development.
1. Sense Making
2. Social Intelligence
3. Novel and Adaptive Thinking
4. Language Proficiency
5. Cross-cultural Collaboration
6. Design Thinking
These skills are critical for individuals and organizations to navigate the complexities of the modern work environment and remain competitive amidst technological disruption, changing market demands, and the evolving nature of work. North-East India’s historical, cultural, and political context offers a fertile ground for cultivating these skills, characterised by these seven attributes:
a) Diverse Cultural Heritage: North-East India is home to over 200 ethnic groups, each with its own language, customs, and traditions. This rich cultural diversity fosters a sense of openness to new ideas and perspectives, encouraging creativity and innovation among the people. This openness is crucial for skills such as sense-making, design thinking, and novel and adaptive thinking, as it allows individuals to approach problems from various angles, appreciate different viewpoints, and develop innovative solutions. In an era of AI and automation, the ability to generate unique ideas and think outside the box becomes a significant competitive advantage.
b) Resilience and Adaptability: Historically, the North-East region has faced numerous challenges, including geographic isolation, political instability, and limited economic development. The people’s ability to adapt and remain resilient amidst these challenges is a testament to their innate flexibility and adaptability. This adaptability is vital for novel and adaptive thinking, as well as the ability to learn new skills and embrace new technologies. As AI and automation continue to reshape the job market, the inherent resilience and adaptability of the North-Eastern workforce can help us navigate these changes and stay relevant.
c) Strong Community Values: The close-knit social structures and strong community values in North-East India foster a sense of empathy, understanding, and collaboration among the people. These cultural aspects nurture social intelligence, as individuals are accustomed to working collaboratively and empathizing with others. In a world increasingly dominated by AI and automation, human interaction and the ability to understand and manage emotions remain essential aspects of many job roles, giving the North-Eastern workforce a competitive edge.
d) Educational Focus: Education has always been a priority in the North-East, with several states having literacy rates above the national average. This emphasis on education and skill development aligns well with the need for sense-making, design thinking, and novel and adaptive thinking in the future job market. Furthermore, prestigious educational institutions like the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) in Guwahati and the National Institutes of Technology (NIT) in various North-Eastern states contribute to the development of a highly skilled workforce, well-equipped to navigate the challenges posed by AI and automation.
e) Political Support for Skill Development: The governments of North-Eastern states have been proactive in implementing policies and initiatives that promote skill development. By investing in skill development, the North-East region can create a talent pool capable of thriving in a rapidly changing job market and staying ahead of AI and automation.
f) Entrepreneurial Spirit: North-East India has a long tradition of entrepreneurship, particularly in the areas of handicrafts, agriculture, and small-scale industries. This ingrained entrepreneurial spirit can be harnessed to drive innovation and business growth in emerging sectors like IT and technology. Entrepreneurship skills, such as business planning, marketing, and financial management, are valuable for both launching start-ups and contributing to existing organizations. By fostering entrepreneurship, our region can create new businesses.
g) Language Proficiency: English is widely spoken and understood in North-East India, making the workforce well-equipped to communicate and collaborate in global business environments. This language proficiency, combined with the region’s linguistic diversity, further enhances the workforce’s ability to work effectively with diverse teams and adapt to different cultural contexts. Language proficiency and cross-cultural collaboration skills are essential in a globalized world and can help the North-Eastern workforce excel in roles that require human interaction, cultural understanding, and negotiation skills, which are less prone to automation.
As we collectively navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by AI and Automation, I urge the esteemed delegates of the G20 Summit to consider investing in regions like North-East India, which have demonstrated a remarkable capacity to adapt and thrive amidst this technological revolution. By doing so, you will not only support economic growth and global competitiveness but also contribute to the development of a resilient and future-ready workforce, capable of leading the world towards a brighter, more sustainable tomorrow.
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