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Digital workforce

Interviews with 228 executives show how businesses deal with robotics and artificial intelligence

Carreiras Robot aDaniel BuenoMore and more, the corporate job market is demanding that professionals have a knowledge of robotics and artificial intelligence, fields that use software, for example, to enable computers to recognize patterns and make associations automatically. This trend is discussed in the report Preparing for the digitisation of the workforce, sponsored by the Spanish consulting firm Everis, published in The Economist magazine. Interviews were conducted with 228 executives in companies in the United States, Europe, Latin America and Asia. Of the total, 80% believe that the ability to use digital tools will be a critical factor for their future success. However, although 58% of the respondents have developed a strategy to digitize work, only 23% of them have implemented it.

One of the barriers in moving toward digitizing the workforce is the high demand for professionals with a good education, such as researchers. Among the respondents, 82% agree that their organizations need to drastically change how they manage work using digital technology. One of the roadblocks is that professionals lack technical knowledge.

The most common use of robotics is on production lines, but the use of virtual robots in data management is growing. Thanks to robots, skilled employees are able to focus their attention where they are needed most. Virtual robots capture business data from the company to organize information more efficiently and smoothly. In artificial intelligence, 43% of the respondents stated that their organizations are using the technology. The most common application is data analysis and measurement.

“The use of robotics and artificial intelligence is a trend in the economy. Computational and IT tools are being introduced gradually today,” says Renato Pedrosa, professor in the Department of Science and Technology Policy of the Geosciences Institute, University of Campinas (Unicamp). Pedrosa is also one of the FAPESP deputy coordinators of the panel on special programs. “Engineering undergraduates from good universities are reasonably well informed about robotics, and computational science students have a reasonably good grasp of artificial intelligence. Advancements are being made in graduate programs in some of the techniques more specifically, and they are being put to better use in the fields,” says Professor Roberto Marcondes of the Institute of Mathematics and Statistics of the University of São Paulo (IME-USP) and FAPESP deputy coordinator of panel on physics, mathematics, chemistry and engineering.

What about professionals who are also researchers, but in another field, and who need a knowledge of robotics and artificial intelligence in their work in the company? “As a minimum, these professionals need to understand the mathematical models and algorithms that are being implemented in the software behind the systems they want to implement or software that is available in the market,” Marcondes says. “I think on the one hand that machines can replace some activities, but on the other hand the services sector is expanding,” Pedrosa says. “We need people to organize the large volume of information and data that digital systems generate,” he adds.