Is Your Job Safe? The Impact of AI on the Future of the Workforce

By Ken Mwenda

Change can be exciting!  The Artificial Intelligence popularly known as AI presents a chance to learn, grow, and become the best version of oneself both personally and professionally. Are you up for the challenge?

Less than a year ago, the internet was abuzz with amazement as people experimented with ChatGPT by developing content for their social media platforms, writing speeches or even academic essays. 

Japanese author Rie Kudan, after winning an award for her novel ‘Tokyo Sympathy Tower’ in 2023, revealed that she used the artificial intelligence tool – ChatGPT to write some parts of her book. In Kenya, both private and government agencies are rapidly embracing AI-generated advertisements to market their products and services.

In January 2024, a well-known Telco company did an advert of a mother running after her baby, speeding away with a huge loaf of bread as she smiled heartily, using AI that created abuzz both online and offline. Also recently, the Kenyan government agency released an AI-generated advertisement that depicted progress in building roads in towns and cities of the country.

These local and global trends affirm the Forbes 2024 report indicating the AI global market projected to reach a staggering $407 billion by 2027, experiencing substantial growth from its estimated $86.9 billion revenue in 2022.

Indeed, artificial intelligence is influencing most areas of the value chain locally and internationally; including agriculture, healthcare, education, fintech and transport among others. Besides, Artificial Intelligence is one of the key driving forces for other emerging technologies like big data, robotics and the Internet of Things not to mention generative AI, with tools like ChatGPT and AI art generators garnering mainstream attention; this trend is likely to continue to act as a technological catalyst for the foreseeable future.

The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgrieva notes that, “almost 40 per cent of global employment is exposed to AI. Relevant local and international players need to explore inclusive approaches to build a sustainable and complementary existence of human workforce and AI. For instance, industries should drive sustainable human-centred strategies in their use of AI to inform market growth.

On the other hand, workers need to consider upskilling, reskilling and cross-skilling with digital skills like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Data science, Cyber Security, Cloud Computing, Internet of Things, Blockchain, Full stack software development, extended reality among others to remain relevant in the face of this fast-evolving technological advancement.

Some Kenyans have started adopting AI and using it in their businesses and daily life. Data released by Internet Search Provider Google in September 2023 found that queries by Kenyans looking for AI courses doubled over the previous year. 

Additionally, queries on courses in virtual assistance grew by 450 per cent, for data analysis by 200 per cent and searches for digital marketing courses grew by 200 per cent.

Search engine queries related to AI music generators also increased by 2,200 per cent, AI website builders by 1,600 per cent, AI video generators by 1,400 per cent and logo makers by 1,150 per cent.

Searches for free AI image generators increased by 2,500 per cent. What does this mean to professionals in various fields?

Although it is a good sign that Kenyans are researching AI and using it in their businesses, professionals in the country need to adopt a more focused approach while embracing AI to prepare for the changing future of work.

As businesses and government agencies opt to use inexpensive AI, many young professionals such as content creators, videographers, photographers, copywriters and even journalists might lose their jobs. Thus, there is need for the workforce to embrace the skill and use of AI and other emerging technologies to align with labour market dynamics.

Kenya has 2500 Artificial Intelligence professionals including machine learning, and data science practitioners among others according to the Association of Artificial Intelligence Kenya 2023 report. The number is quite negligible since the country boasts of a youthful population according to the 2019 Population and Census results which shows that 75% of the 47.6 million populations is under 35 years old.

To fully harness the potential of AI, the country must invest in building a skilled workforce equipped with the knowledge and expertise to develop, deploy, and manage AI technologies effectively. What is expected to remain relevant and thrive in the future of work? Among many elements, like mindset shift and adaptability, one needs to possess relevant skills for the future of work.

Some skills on the future of work like AI, Machine Learning, Cyber Security, and Data Science are offered free of charge by eMobilis Technology Training Institute under the Ajira Digital program – a government initiative under the Ministry of ICT and Digital Economy in partnership with Mastercard Foundation, eMobilis and KEPSA geared at equipping young people particularly young women with the right digital skills to participate and contribute in the future of work  and help to bridge the skills gap and nurture a new generation of AI practitioners, researchers and entrepreneurs who are passionate about driving positive change through technology.

The Kenya Kwanza government is at the forefront of ensuring young people are skilled. Already there is a proposed law dubbed “the Kenya Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Society Bill, 2023, that seeks to help mitigate job losses by supporting workers’ skills development, fostering entrepreneurship and innovation, monitoring labour market trends, providing social safety nets, and promoting ethical AI deployment before the Parliament of Kenya.

Also, The President, H.E. William Ruto recently directed the Ministry of Information, Communications and The Digital Economy to develop AI policy recommendations for legislation to guide the industry.  However, young professionals need to be agile and embrace the available free and paid skilling opportunities to harness the full benefits of the technological advancement powered by AI among other emerging technologies even before the legislations are adopted.

Furthermore, Kenya’s National ICT Policy recognizes trends in big data, machine learning and AI as emerging technologies that the country is paying attention to. The Kenya National Digital Master Plan 2022-2032 calls for the development of a National AI Strategic Plan as a high-level framework for identifying scientific and technological needs in AI, as well as recommendations for establishing and maintaining the National AI Research Resources, including technical capabilities, governance, administration, assessment, and requirements for security, privacy, and civil rights. 

Kenya’s Digital Economy Blueprint identifies the need for the country to develop a digital skills framework in AI.  As the country considers AI policies and regulations to address the potential harm, tackle the challenges, and expand opportunities for AI-based systems, young professionals should explore and take up the opportunities presented by artificial intelligence technology.

Meanwhile, in Europe, a majority of Europeans are concerned about the impact of AI on the labour market and want their governments to restrict artificial intelligence to mitigate the impacts of the technology on job security including job displacement and the erosion of traditional employment opportunities, according to a major new study from Spain’s IE University.

The study shows that out of a sample of 3,000 Europeans, 68% want their governments to introduce rules to safeguard jobs from the rising level of automation being brought about by AI. They are advocating for policies that support workers affected by automation, such as retraining programs, income support, and job transition assistance.

In essence, learning AI is not just about acquiring technical skills; it is about empowering oneself to become the architect of your future and driver of positive change in the society. As Kenya embraces the digital age and seeks to harness the potential of AI for inclusive and sustainable development, investing in AI education and empowerment of its youth population is essential.

By embracing AI education and cultivating a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, young workers can position themselves at the forefront of the AI-driven economy and lead Kenya into a prosperous and equitable future. Today there is a growing demand for information technology professionals from data analysts, machine learning experts, software developers, artificial intelligence, and web developers across the world.

One does not need to relocate. Opportunities are many including remote working. Embracing Artificial Intelligence represents a pivotal opportunity for young people to shape the future and drive innovation in a rapidly evolving world. As the digital landscape continues to expand and AI technologies become increasingly integrated into various aspects of society, young workers stand at the forefront of this transformative wave.

Written by Ken Mwenda, Co-Founder and Managing Director, eMobilis Technology Training Institute

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Meet Jacktone Lawi, a seasoned technology journalist with years of experience in the industry. I have developed my passion for technology during my formative years, which has been instrumental in shaping my career trajectory. My expertise lies in reporting on emerging technologies and their impact on businesses and consumers worldwide. Through my experience I’m well-versed in covering topics such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and digital transformation, among others. Throughout my career, I have has demonstrated an exceptional ability to distill complex technical information into accessible and engaging content that resonates with my readers. My writing style is clear, concise, and informative, allowing me to communicate even the most technical concepts to a broad audience. Beyond my writing skills, I have also become known for extensive network of industry contacts and ability to secure exclusive interviews with high-profile figures in the technology world. These connections have enabled me to gain unique insights into the latest trends and developments in the field, giving me a competitive edge in my reporting. In addition to my work as a journalist, I’m also actively engaged in the broader technology community. Where I regularly attend conferences and events, share insights and stays up-to-date on the latest innovations in the industry. Overall, my wealth of experience as a technology journalist have given me a deep understanding of the industry and its impact on society.

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