We live in a ubiquitous computing society, where digitalisation and technology are integrated into everyday activities such as banking, on-line shopping, consuming news, engaging with friends and family, and utilising chatbot service agents and smart home applications. We use technology in all sectors - in education, healthcare, agriculture, in banking, in mining etc. where human operational and repetitive tasks are automated through for e.g. artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation. We use natural language processing (NLP) tools in our research, to analyse large sets of published works or to transcribe recordings. Big data applications collect information about us that are used by retailers to create unique consumer profiles and value propositions.
“Our interface with technology has changed, with features such as conversational interfaces (chatbots) and voice recognition. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) allow us to immerse ourselves in a computer-simulated reality – supporting commercial applications and learning experiences” said Prof Hanlie Smuts, Head of the Department of Informatics at the University of Pretoria.
Prof Smuts elaborated that “It is in this environment that organisations need to make sense of digital disruption, fast-paced evolution of digital technologies, competitor activity where more organisations now have access to capabilities through cloud service, and expert systems that inform evidence-based decision-making to ultimately derive business value.”
“In addition, organisations need to ensure that their workforce have the skills and competencies to survive and thrive in this new world of work. Two aspects are key in this context:
Ultimately, such a knowledge-intensive Society 5.0 – driven by data - may introduce greater productivity, work satisfaction, innovation and growth opportunities – to the benefit of all. Imagine the world of work is a highway. Through fit-for-purpose learning and training interventions, organisations may provide the on-ramps onto the highway for their employees and workforce considering some of the following attributes of our world of work highway:
• Revised human-computer interactions
Traditionally human-computer interactions facilitated the conversion of data to information to knowledge to insight. Humans added context to data to create information and then considered patterns to create knowledge and derive insight. In Society 5.0, this process will have much less human intervention and the final output of this conversion process will be AI-derived knowledge. With this greater opportunity to access, humans may now combine the AI-derived knowledge with human knowledge to inform evidence-based decisions, strategies and courses of action emphasising a new skill set required to understand and engage with this data-driven knowledge-creation process.
• Digital literacy skills
With the revised human-computer interaction and knowledge combination, the expectation is that all humans in Society 5.0 must be information literate. They need to understand the application and implications of society-wide use of data. If the aim of Society 5.0 is that services for society are to be available to all for the benefit of society at large, then we must also consider cultivating digital literacy among information users. Digital literacy as a knowledge competency is key as we move towards a truly people-centric society and AI applications and evolution must be accompanied by efforts to raise the information literacy of every employee.
• Critical thinking skills
With constant changes in the workplace, the workforce needs the skills to think critically and make impactful decisions. Critical thinking skills to analyse facts and to form a judgement will enable employees in the organisation to analyse objectively, categorise information, and come up with innovative ideas and solutions to complex problems using logic and reason. In addition, employees with critical thinking skills are well positioned to embrace organisational processes dividing teams and tasks between humans and machines.
• Human experience
The recent focus on user experience (UX) and UX design, highlighted the emotional side of human experience. Each user has unique preferences, behaviours and expectations. Emotional appeal is key to any interface and more so for design assets that intend to bring back customers again and again. By acknowledging the importance of emotional experiences, ensure that users feel like there is a person, not a machine, at the other end of the connection. This requires designers and developers to understand the customer, to apply participative design processes and require design thinking skills.
• Data analytics
Data analytics is the process of exploring datasets in order to draw inferences from the information contained in the datasets. Data analysis skills no longer falls in the domain of Information Systems Departments only – every employee across all industries deal with data and potentially big data datasets. The workforce must be enabled to answer a range of business questions which are imposed on the data, understand the business rules and algorithms that are used by analytical models such as predictive, descriptive, and classification logic and analyse specific use cases.
• Innovation enablement
New knowledge is created when data and information are deployed inter-connectedly, by seeing the data and information in context. In a knowledge-intensive society, such new knowledge may drive new business models, new revenue streams, generate new industries and transform industrial structures. By clustering and combining internal knowledge with external collaboration and networking, innovation activities are enhanced.
“The Society 5.0 with its integration of the cyber- and physical space, is changing the future of work with unprecedented speed and intensity, driving the way in which we live, work and play. The speed and advancement of technology in the future of work will require a number of new skills and capabilities, as well as the flexibility and agility to embrace change. By managing these shifts in the workplace and employee skill sets, organisations will be empowered to innovate” concluded Prof Smuts.
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