Stay on your toes
Are we wondering what is happening to the world around us? Everything is changing while the revolutionary inventions of yesterday seem bleak and trivial to the future innovations. Nothing is constant as we are evolving every day at a pace that is multiplying perpetually. Already, artificial intelligence is all around us, from self-driving cars and drones to virtual assistants and software that translate or invest. The immortal might of corporate giants, political regimes and economic structures that existed before are being taken over by the fourth industrial revolution. We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another.
In the early 18th century the First industrial revolution took place that used water and steam power to mechanise production. It was followed by the Second, which used electric power to create mass production resulting in a rapid expansion of output. The Third predominantly used electronics and information technology to automate production and now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third which can be described as a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, and impacting all disciplines, economies and industries. It is a digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of last century that represents new ways in which technology becomes embedded within societies and even the human body.
When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country. And the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.
In the World Economic Forum, Fourth Industrial Revolution has been discussed as the most important topic as countries from across the globe are trying to align their interest with this new era that builds and extends the impact of digitisation in new and unanticipated ways. The advent of “cyber-physical systems” involving entirely new capabilities for people and machines for example genome editing, new forms of machine intelligence like 3D printing, breakthrough materials and approaches to governance that rely on cryptographic methods such as the block chain have managed to grasp attention of many intellectuals. As this transformation continues it is rather imperative to identify unique opportunities this beholds for developing countries like Pakistan to master the art of integration with shifting global dynamics.
“Digital” is not just about technology. It is a state of mind, and the source of new business models, new consumption patterns, new ways for business and individuals to organise, produce, trade and innovate. The digital economy is an essential part of the architecture of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and in order for digital technology to continue contributing economic and social impact, we need to anticipate its effects on markets and to ensure a fair deal for workers in a digitised market environment. Cross-border data flow and free flow of ideas most prominently drive innovation and growth. Initiatives to foster free floating of data are crucial to support moving towards a data economy. As Pakistan’s telecom infrastructure has improved dramatically since 2008 with foreign and domestic investments into fixed line and mobile networks it can aid network growth. There are more than 150 million mobile phone users in Pakistan (>80% population penetration) with close to 50 million Internet users (>20% population penetration) who can augment the case of moving towards being a completely digital economy in the future. This requires network readiness and financial inclusion initiatives that help measure the economic and social impact of policy decisions. A start up culture in Pakistan has already emerged while young entrepreneurs look for economic justifications to absorb this economic shift. In the days to come it will be interesting to see how we can answer our most crippling socio-economic issues such as poverty, debt, illiteracy and terrorism by implementing 4IR technologies to blur the lines between us and the advanced countries. With all ingredients such as economical manpower, acumen, enthusiasm and an unbeatable spirit Pakistan possess strong qualities to prove policy makers and investors to support acclimatisation towards shifting global trends.
Primarily as the Fourth Industrial Revolution is transforming economies like never before while this transformation will proceed differently in advanced and developing parts of the world, no country or market will be spared from the tidal wave of this change. We need to stay ready, so we don’t have to get ready at the culmination of a new world order.