'We have to learn differently, and faster'

Technology is going to transform economies to make them more competitive, but that does not mean we can leave the people behind, says Irving Tan, senior vice president, Asia Pacific and Japan for Cisco.

Speaking at a forum in this week’s Cisco Live in Melbourne, Tan says discussions usually revolve around digitisation and IoT.

But the industry should be cognisant of another form of transition - the loss of jobs due to IT displacing workers.

Many traditional jobs currently performed by people, will get automated, says Tan.

“That is the reality of what is going to happen, it is the nature of how technology is transforming the way we live," he says.

At the opening keynote of Cisco's annual conference for customers and partners, Chris Dedicoat, executive vice president, worldwide sales and field operations at the company, noted how in 10 years there will be around 500 billion devices connected to the internet.

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The scale of things connected to the internet is moving so fast, this technology is going to transform how businesses will operate, says Dedicoat.

At the same time, he sees the need for IT companies to pool their resources and have a coherent programme to address the loss of jobs caused by digitisation.

“We can not do that alone. Many governments understand that this is a real imperative we have to address collectively,” says Dedicoat, at a media forum following the keynote.

“It is an area where industry has to work together,” he adds.

A major concern for governments in this whole digital disruption, is how it will affect the current working population.

People who have been in a particular role through a significant period of their career, will have to change mid-career, he says.

Irving Tan agrees with his colleague, saying this is a responsibility that Cisco fully acknowledges.

He says the company is also working with governments, academia and industry around enablement and education.

The goal, he says, is to ensure the new generation of graduates coming out of colleges, TAFEs and polytechnics have the right skills that can match the need for jobs.

Tan says a lot of the current focus is on STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths).

“We are working with the Cisco Network Academy and educational institutions, to make sure we are continuously advancing and developing curriculum to help generate the next generation of talent,” he states.

"An area we focus on, is how do we help government retrain those who are starting to be displaced as a result of technology and automation," he says.

In Singapore, he says, the government is working with a polytechnic on a programme to retrain mid-career individuals who have been displaced, to help them acquire technology skills.

How do we help government retrain those who are starting to be displaced as a result of technology and automation?Irving Tan, Cisco

These could be around networking, being a business analyst or around a specific specialisation like security, so they can go back to the workforce.

He says this is part of the effort to correct the mismatch in the supply and demand of skills in a lot of areas. This is is also in line with Singapore’s initiative around being a ‘smart nation’.

There is a big focus around digitising the country, but equally a focus on revamping the educational system.

The Singapore government has a skills development fund for working citizens, who can access them to upskill to be more more relevant in the digital era.

"We see this happening in many other countries and not only in developed nations." He says India has a similar programme.

Dedicoat says an imperative for organisations is to provide opportunities for its staff to continue learning and self-development.

"We have to learn differently, learn faster," he states.

Cisco is providing learning opportunities in networking and around the company's technologies, through the Cisco Network Academy.

"Over the next 18 months, we will train three million Cisco-certified professionals to help our customers be relevant with new technology and there will also be new courses on security, automation and analytics.

"It is one of the biggest global education programmes of a corporate entity," Dedicoat says.

He says in the past, technology was there to support business transformation. Today, technology is what transforms business models as it leads to new revenue streams and how people monetise their products and services.

Every company, every country is going through this transformation to build the next generation of the internet.

“It truly will be revolutionising every single thing we do,” he tells the 6000-plus attendees to the conference. "We must develop and prepare for the next generation of the internet."

The second generation internet would be in scale that is hard to fathom, he states.

Cisco, he says, spent US$6 billion on RD over the past year, with half of this going to networking.

“We are investing to look at how we provide the next generation of internet,” he says.

The company has also registered 20,000 patents over the past year, while its engineers are giving back by donating hundreds of millions to lines of code to the open source community.

He says Cisco has two innovation centres for the South Pacific, located in Sydney and Perth.

These hubs are focused on the development of the next generation IoT technology.

He cites the case of CSIRO, which is using machine learning and smart algorithms to take raw data and assess the performance of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Using predictive analytics, the engineering teams can get an early warning of potential problems on the bridge. This innovation can be applied to different sized infrastructures.

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Divina Paredes attended the Cisco Live 2017 in Melbourne as a guest of Cisco.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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