The Fourth Industrial Revolution, should we bother?
EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - October 24, 2019 - 12:00am

It was in the ski resort of Davos, in the snow-capped mountains of the Swiss Alps, where the idea of a technological revolution first took centerstage.

Klaus Schwab, founder of the Geneva-based World Economic Forum, coined the term the Fourth Industrial Revolution at the Davos meeting in 2016. It’s a revolution that is changing the world, he argued in his book of the same title.

Anything born in the annual Davos meetings could easily be dismissed as nothing but crazy ideas to advance the interests of the global capitalist class – world billionaires who fly in each winter to the ski resort in their luxurious private jets and try to save the world while hobnobbing in ultra expensive parties.

But that shouldn’t be the case when it comes to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It’s not something we can dismiss because it’s very real and the signs are everywhere –  artificial intelligence, automated vehicles, Internet of Things, facial ID recognition etc.

While we may not wake up to a robot apocalypse just yet, technology is really transforming our everyday mundane lives. One day in the future, your next lover might just be a sexy, long-haired robot, or a fully automated life-size Ken Barbie doll in my case.

Indeed, the Fourth Industrial Revolution isn’t just for the first world. It’s dangerous for us to dismiss it as just that.

While our chaotic republic has to deal with more third world problems such as our daily traffic mess, low wages, a health crisis and what-have-you, we also need to prepare for rapid technological changes.

I had a chat recently with Bounty Fresh founder and CEO Tennyson Chen. His company which is now a giant poultry player in the Philippines has grown significantly with automation.

“Our growth has a lot to do with innovation and automation. For our feed mill, we used to hire 200 to 300 people. Now we just need 30 people even for three shifts because of automation,” Chen said.

Imagine that. That’s just because of automation. How then can we survive digitization, innovation and all these changes?

Be prepared

I spoke to Joel Santos, co founder and president of the Thames Business School recently. He said it is important for our graduates to meet the demands of this disruptive revolution.

Joel said the recently signed Transnational Higher Education Act is a step in the right direction.

The law allows foreign institutions of higher education to collaborate with universities here and offer degree programs in the country.

Essentially, it would help prepare our graduates for a changing future.

“The objective, really is to hasten the upgrade of our knowledge and skills to world-class standards to be able to meet the demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Joel says.

The law can allow partnerships with international universities and help students upscale their knowledge and skills.

Thames itself pioneered the access of foreign degree programs to Filipinos since 1999 wherein Filipinos study for two years in the Philippines before going to the UK – at the University of South Wales for example – to finish their final degree.

It is eyeing more partnerships with foreign universities that want to set up shop here. It can be a “bridge” for foreign universities looking for tie ups with local institutions of higher learning.

Against this backdrop, the Philippines may soon catch up with its ASEAN neighbors which have long recognised the need to globalise their educational systems to help produce “global citizens.”

Filipinos, too deserve to be at par with the world’s best.

A new energy era

Speaking of innovative changes, energy companies in the country are now scrambling to join the pivot toward sustainability.

We’re now hearing a lot of renewable energy projects and contracts.

The Lopez Group’s Energy Development Corporation (EDC) has been a pioneer in this area. The company recently signed a a supply contract of 100 megawatts (MW) with power distributor Meralco.

Props to EDC for this! I learned that the supply will be comprised of purely renewable energy from EDC and sister company First Gen Hydro.

The bid was part of Meralco’s competitive selection process (CSP) for 500MW of capacity for five years beginning Dec. 26 this year.

The Lopez Group offered a lower all-in headline rate of P5.1908 per kilowatt-hour (kWh).

EDC president and chief operating officer Richard Tantoco said the contract shows that renewable energy can be priced lower versus other sources.

The Lopez geothermal producer has been a pioneer in renewables way before it became a buzzword in today’s business scene. Today, it continues to push for the use the renewable energy because many businesses are facing increasing expectations from stakeholders to comply with sustainability regulations and practices.

Indeed, there seems to be a new energy era in the country with renewable energy becoming a major source of power for us. Will this be sustained? Will this be reliable? Will this be affordable? I hope so.

Iris Gonzales’ email address is eyesgonzales@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at eyesgonzales.com

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