Wed | Oct 16, 2019

Phillips: Robotics a pathway to Ja’s riches

Published:Monday | September 23, 2019 | 12:14 AMJason Cross/ Gleaner Writer

University of the West Indies sustainable development professor Anthony Clayton has concurred with Dr Peter Phillips’ conviction that Jamaica must begin to take its children fully into “the digital age”, commonly called the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Phillips, president of the People’s National Party (PNP), made the statement yesterday while addressing thousands of party supporters at the organisation’s 81st annual conference at the National Arena in Kingston.

The PNP president said that if he assumed power, an institute for education would be established to provide leadership training for people wishing to become principals, as well as to provide mentorship for teachers and parents.

“We are going to make our country rich and develop the talents of our children. I come to heal the scars of history. Our education must focus on innovation,” Phillips said. “We must have a special drive in areas of science and technology, robotics, animation, coding, and the development of computer applications. It must be done in every school across the island”.

In full agreement that Phillips’ suggestion is the way to go, Clayton said it will become more difficult to achieve if the country’s leaders do not act quickly.

“What will the fate of Jamaicans be? We can be definite about a couple of things. It is going to be a difficult transition [into the Fourth Industrial Revolution]; however, it is going to be very much harder if we don’t start preparing for this transition now,” Clayton said.

“This forces us to rethink the purpose of education. We are currently training people to go into lines of work that are about to become obsolete. What we now have to do is find ways to enable all the children in this nation to be getting the best possible education with regards to informatics – how you acquire, manipulate, and use information – because that is the key to economic success in the years ahead,” he added.

Clayton also recommended the inclusion of molecular engineering, additive manufacturing and biotechnology into the education system.

“Far more dramatic changes lie ahead. It is now possible to see a time where a lot of the things that doctors do, lawyers do, a lot of the farming, transport, buses, and aircraft are all going to be automated. With what we now know, the technology that is already available, it would replace somewhere between 20 to 80 per cent of all current employment in advanced service-based economies,” he said.

“That range varies across countries. In the poorer developing countries, where most tasks are manual, some of those countries [are seeing that] something like 80 per cent of the current forms of employment can now be done more efficiently and cheaply by artificial intelligence and robotics.”

Relating to Jamaica’s progress in stamping its class globally in the development of computer applications, Clayton said, “We do have ground to make up here. By investing in education and training, we can be turning out children and young people who have got more of the skill set they will actually need in the years ahead.”