The ICT, Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs Ministries launched the Ajira Digital Program looking to empower one million Kenyans to earn a living off online work. A bold and ambitious plan but one that might be headed for headwinds, despite the promising numbers shared on the concept note and the support of foundations like Rockefeller Foundation Africa who pledged USD 1 million to be applied towards upskilling 10,000 youth to be ready of online work.
I do not wish to be a spoilsport for this or any other online jobs initiatives but to taper expectation with the realities on the ground, which is that advancements in machine learning and artificial intelligence will make short work…pun intended, of the current tasks that we have come to know and expect as possible for online assignment and delivery.
It is mind boggling what current technology can do. The Google Brain project has given us, TensorFlow, an open source software library for machine learning while Deep Mind a British AI company acquired by Google 2014 has built a neural network capable of learning on its own. Facebook AI Research are also pushing the boundaries at scale of what is possible; Microsoft too with its AI and Research Group.
Companies such as Automated Insights and Narrative Science are able to produce “human-sounding narratives from data”. This has massive ramifications at a time when media is looking for relevance, product – market fit and refined business models at scale that needs to take care of the long tail consumption.
We have an undersupply of medical doctors in Kenya and most parts of Africa. Lots of knowledge is very few heads, a situation that scales poorly. Now think of anyone with a basic training capable of being the human interface to collect samples but with the support of a cognitive system that is constantly learning from live and historical data resulting in better prognosis and creation of personalized treatment regimens that look into often ignored matters such as drug interactions. IBM, Dell, Hitachi Data Systems, Hewlett-Packard and others are playing in this league.
Business Process Outsourcing
Every process or task that we know from our attempts at becoming a BPO hub will be fully automated in the near future. Payroll, accounting, human resource, transcription, data sanitization, multimedia identification and tagging, document conversion, forms processing and a host of others will be assigned to these new workhorses in the cloud who need no sleep and also have infinitely fewer errors. Software development does not escape this noose, and I see a future where anyone can write out a scope and have and AI and ML powered system write out entire backend and frontend’s plus handle optimized development and operations (DevOps).
Skills and Tooling
The focus needs to be creating supply for the long term by up-skilling and retooling both the current and emergent workforce. Also we will need to reimagine traditional blue collar roles that many frown upon as they may be the saving grace that absorbs a large percentage of people whose roles disappear.
Work as we know it has changed.