The enduring march of evolution has seen the human race constantly adapt as change delivers its inevitable consequences.
Digital technologies are defining the pace of change, in business and society, becoming so deeply embedded in everyday life that they’re invisible once adopted.
As a CEO of a tech company at the forefront of delivering transformational technologies, I am acutely aware that not everyone benefits – and that we must be responsible in how we manage the potential negative impacts of digital.
The challenge for business leaders is not to ignore or deny the impacts of technology but to collaborate to ensure humans remain at the heart of all we do – so that the consequences do more good than harm.
Humans at the heart of the digital consequence
New digital ecosystems are emerging.
Big data, blockchain, cloud, IoT, AI: each is powerful on its own, but when combined they are able to amplify each other and create synergy that will have far-reaching consequences.
Fujitsu has deliberately created a strategy that puts humans at the heart of digital. We call this ‘Human Centric Innovation’.
This is an approach to creating business and social value by empowering people with digital technology. It’s about bringing together three key value drivers: creativity, intelligence and connectedness.
Each value is derived from dimensions of people, information and infrastructure.
At Fujitsu we talk about:
- Human Empowerment: Empowering people with digital technology
- Creative Intelligence: Using intelligence derived from analysing data and employing algorithms
- Connected Infrastructure: Connecting things and the infrastructure of business and society
What does this approach mean for Responsible Business?
As the planet’s population hurtles towards 9 billion people, Fujitsu’s technology is helping to address many serious global challenges, such as mass urbanisation, an ageing population, food shortages and natural disasters.
Given the momentous changes driven by digital innovation over the past two decades it might be tempting to see the future as simply a more sophisticated version of the present. But that would be to misunderstand the transformational power of technology and the larger scale impacts this will bring.
Let me illustrate this with an example of how digital can change the way we problem solve…
Fujitsu is currently developing a new solution to predict and ease the congestion in public spaces and transport hubs in Singapore. Using data, we can do much more than just change traffic flow or introduce disincentives to drive.
When a congestion situation is predicted, the system can send mobile coupons to groups of people in an effort to tempt them into nearby shops and restaurants — easing congestion while simultaneously boosting the local economy and keeping people connected.
The fourth technology wave of AI and robotics is fast becoming a reality
With developments in AI and robotics, we are looking at a future in which there is an ability for a machine to learn instead of being explicitly programmed.
By applying machine learning with neural networks (computer networks modelled on the human brain) you can massively increase the bandwidth available for processing data. In doing this, a machine can determine patterns among images and pictures much more easily than other data sets.
By taking existing data sets and turning them into images, an AI can process vast amounts of information very quickly, enabling better human decision making. This can massively change the way we monitor traffic, for example.
— Fujitsu UK (@fujitsu_uk) November 16, 2016
While this demonstrates fantastic gains in the field of machine learning, we can’t ignore the concern many people have that AI will ultimately take over many of the jobs currently carried out by people.
Advancements in AI means that we’ll soon require different types of skills. That’s not to say that work patterns and volumes won’t change, and that some people will find the transition very difficult, however I see roboticised working as unlocking human potential, not replacing it.
The world of work will inevitably evolve, so it’s vital that business leaders today stay connected to the next generation to plan for these changes.
We need to be able to change business models on employment as the gig economy changes expectations about work. This in turn will trigger ways in which our governments must think about tax and what is taxable work.
We must invest now in education to help train people for a future where automation and machine learning take away routine tasks. Our education system must adapt to plan for jobs that don’t even exist today!
There are also deep pervasive problems that we must tackle today. As a female CEO I am acutely aware of the gender gap in the tech industry. I believe there will be a growth in jobs in tech in the future and a decline in jobs in other areas. This change is in danger of widening the gender gap.
Not all tech will replace humans – and there’s great potential for good to be done
The rise in IoT, wearable tech is just one example of the enormous potential of tech to help humans.
Remote working employees in dangerous situations can use wearable devices to augment their knowledge, allow support staff to monitor vital signs and call out early warnings.
Fujitsu technology can equip drivers with wearable devices to detect signs of fatigue — a critical factor for road safety. Road safety carries with it a massive social value implication: this kind of digital technology can save lives.
We can also help drive responsible behaviour and promote more sustainable consumption in the population by applying big data solutions: imagine being able to help farmers dramatically reduces costs, improve use of natural resources and meet consumer demand – all because they had access to data.
We have a system that efficiently increases cattle yield by detecting estrus, based on changes in cows’ behaviour patterns. We call this our connected cow. The main advantages of this system include recognition of the best timing for insemination and early detection of conception, as well as due date prediction.
We are also using our technology to help drive efficiency in supply chains.
Fujitsu’s London North Data Centre is the first facility in Europe to be formally certified as Tier 3 by the Uptime Institute.
The data centre incorporates extensive energy-saving and environmentally-friendly technology. Efficient cooling and power ensure a major reduction in electricity usage and associated emissions.
Our solutions save enough electricity to power 6,000 households every year – saving 10,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide yearly.
Fujitsu is also developing cutting-edge technology for greenhouse cultivation and vegetable factory cultivation. Technology is helping to improve food production using interventions such as hydroponics to increase yield.
And this is a challenge we face today. Loss of jobs today may be an immediate consequence of new technology, but that does not mean we shouldn’t be striving to solve the world’s food shortage and create new jobs for the future.
But as the pace of tech evolutions quickens we must understand their impacts and act responsibly to understand how we distribute work, redefine work and redefine income.
April 24th starts the Responsible business week for BITC.
Building on our year as BITC’s Responsible Business of the Year Fujitsu aims to:
- Broaden understanding about the way digital technology is creating solutions for responsible business
- Bring future leaders and current business leaders together to spark ideas to sustain an on-going dialogue
- Grow the responsible business movement
Planning for an equal future where humans all benefit.
A question I would like to get readers views on is what do we have to do today to trigger a seismic shift in the way women work in the tech sector. What do we do today to inspire girls into jobs of the future?