by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
JOHANNESBURG – SKILLS development is crucial to making the most of the robotic process automation (RPA) revolution and using it to grow jobs, rather than lose them.
This is according to experts following the announcement by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s intention to introduce automation training at primary school level.
However, while the RPA revolution is underway – the sector is already in the region of US$3,7 billion (R52 billion) and growing at around 50 percent year-on-year to 2022- the necessary skills are lacking.
Recently delivering his State of the Nation Address (SONA), Ramaphosa said over the next six years, government would provide every school child in South Africa with digital workbooks and textbooks on a tablet device.
Already, he said, 90 percent of textbooks in high enrolment subjects across all grades and all workbooks had been digitised.
“In line with our Framework for Skills for a Changing World, we are expanding the training of both educators and learners to respond to emerging technologies including the internet of things (IoT), robotics and artificial intelligence (AI),” Ramaphosa said.
RPA is an emerging form of business process automation technology based on the notion of software robots or AI workers.
UiPath, the RPA leader, has urged greater focus on automation skills in South Africa.
Lenore Kerrigan, the South African ICT veteran and new UiPath head of sales for South Africa, said automation, and RPA, is a wave of change much like the ones humankind saw when personal computer and mobile phones first arrived.
“The difference is – this is taking off much faster,” he said.
He delved into the all-familiar topic, “RPA is not like having R2D2 (fictional robot character) coming in and taking over your job, though.”
“RPA gives you a digital assistant that takes over your mundane, process-based work, and does it better and faster. This leaves humans free to focus on creative problem-solving and innovation.”
Kerrigan opined the advent of technologies like electricity and motorised cars also impacted jobs but at the same time created opportunities for scores of new jobs.
“There is no stopping progress,” he said.
Kerrigan noted the company was seeing in its deployments with global customers, and in South Africa, a lot of repurposing of roles and upskilling of workers to use RPA to improve their daily work.
The RPA revolution comes amid fear progress and technology were eliminating some jobs.
Tim Proome, head of supply chain at technolgy firm, Tarsus Distribution, said his company established that harnessing RPA did not result in job losses:
“We didn’t cut heads, but instead we were able to create a new, sellable service without needing new hires,” he said.
“Where RPA replaced repetitive tasks, our people – who have extensive experience – were able to move into new roles that were less mundane and made better use of their IP.”
Kulpreet Singh, UiPath managing director for Europe, Middle East and Africa, said RBA skills development was crucial.
“RPA is the next industrial revolution, which will shake up society as we know it. But skills are lacking,” he said.
UiPath offers free RPA training via itsUiPath Academy. It also runs a UiPath Academic Alliance Programme, whose mission is to provide automation training to more than 1 million students globally in the next three years.
– CAJ News