With the fourth industrial revolution knocking at the door, nations the world over are either worried about its impact or getting prepared to welcome it. Some may still wonder what it will mean to them. How does Bangladesh want to respond to the challenges posed by this latest digitised, robotic and AI (artificial intelligence)-driven industrial revolution? During the presentation of a keynote paper at the second International Conference on Business and Management (ICBM)-2019 at a city hotel on Friday, the chairman of an industrial group, ACI did not exactly pose this question. But he made an oblique reference to this by asking how leaders of various fields of today want to be remembered by the future generations will depend on the ground the former would have prepared. Indeed, the ACI chairman has reminded today's leadership of the enormous responsibility of creating an enabling environment for the nation's transition to the highly sophisticated and automated industrial age.
According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), around 800 million people worldwide are likely to lose their jobs by 2030. During the same period, jobs abroad and at home of approximately 5.7 million unskilled workers from Bangladesh would be terminated. This is quite a frightening employment scenario for the country. Clearly, this country is yet to take enough preparation for the fast-changing manufacturing mode courtesy of the advent of a completely different phase of human civilisation dependent more on advanced digitisation and AI. With an oversize population Bangladesh is at a disadvantage, no doubt. But at the same time, its plus point is its high proportion of young population. As high as 34 per cent of its population is aged 15 or below, whereas in the Western countries and Japan, the aged are outnumbering the young by a wide margin. The trend in the West is in favour of a decreasing young population.
Now the demographic pattern here in Bangladesh can be made either an asset or a huge burden. If properly planned, the young generation can be raised as most competent people who will be able to face any challenge from the upcoming industrial age. Clearly, education comes first in order of merit. The existing education system will not be able to prepare today's children for the industrial transformation. It has to be reformed according to the need of the time. There is no alternative to massive investment in education. The other day Education Minister Dipu Moni was lamenting that budget allocation for education still hovers around 2.0 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP).
To meet the challenge, a change in the mindset is well in order. It must be admitted that the present system of academic pursuit has lost touch with the emerging reality. Producing technicians rather than general graduates is a better option. To be conversant with advanced technology and AI, the young generation will have to learn more than just technical skills. That the young people here are resourceful in terms of technological know-how is well proved. What they need is enough facility and patronage. If those are in place, the young generation will get prepared for deriving benefits from the fourth industrial revolution.
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