Are we ready for the 4th Industrial Revolution?

The steam engine, light bulb, internal combustion engine and the silicon chip have all revolutionised the world. Today, we are in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution (4IR), a movement that is being driven by the global spread of the Internet, wireless sensors and the dawn of artificial intelligence.

“Like its predecessors, breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, synthetic biology, blockchain, the Internet of Things, driverless cars, drones, 3D printing and nanotechnology, to name but a few are already beginning to redefine how Oman works, lives and plays,” explained Taleb al Makhmari, (pictured) Ithraa’s Marketing & Media Director-General and organiser of the Inside Stories initiative.
On the one hand, 4IR offers Oman considerable economic advantages. However, there could be a down side, warns Al Makhmari.
“The opportunities presented by 4IR are enormous. To realise them we will have to come to terms with an entirely new economic landscape. Tackling this important issue, our opening Inside Stories session of the 2018 season will deal with the impact of 4IR on areas ranging from the workplace and enterprise to manufacturing, health and education.”
Scheduled to be held 7:30pm on Tuesday, May 8, at the Public Authority for Civil Aviation (PACA) Training Centre in Al Hail North, the Inside Stories panel includes: Dr Ludovico Alcorta, Chief Technical Advisor, Industrial Strategy, Ministry of Commerce & Industry; Dr Hafith al Shihi, Department of Information Systems, College of Economics & Political Science, Sultan Qaboos University; Dr. Abdullah Al Balushi, President, Ericsson Oman; Mohammed Nayaz, Partner, Africa, India & Middle East, Advisory Services & MENA Leader for Resilience Services, Ernst & Young; and Amrou al Sharif, President & CEO, Oman-Lasso Exploration & Production Karwan.
Reinforcing Al Makhmari’s view, McKinsey & Company research suggests that existing technologies could soon be responsible for the automation of 30 to 50 per cent of all current work activities — leading to $16 trillion in eliminated wages and significant job losses. The first to go are likely to be repetitive, blue-collar jobs, but even professionals will be at risk, as AI and robotics become more widespread.
Every industry is facing change that was once inconceivable. By 2025, it is likely that we will see the first 3D-printed human organ transplant, more people will be wearing Internet-connected clothing and 10 per cent of GDP will be stored on blockchain technology.
“Not one Omani sector will be left unaffected by these changes”, commented Al Makhmari.
Innovation can be disruptive and history shows that in the face of major disruption, winners embrace change and adapt.
“Engaging in 4IR is an imperative for the sultanate’s long-term economic prosperity. It is that straightforward,” noted Al Makhmari.
With a firm focus on the future, the goal of Ithraa’s Inside Stories is to draw in the community and explore new ideas.
“We are motivated by the belief that everyone needs to be part of the conversation about the future. Given the changes 4IR will bring, the call for society to develop new tools and skills is more urgent than ever,” pointed out Sajda al Ghaithy, Ithraa’s Media Director.
4IR is opening significant opportunities for Omani organisations, says Al Makhmari. “From re-evaluating business models to new data-driven revenue streams, the sky is the limit and we have only just begun to see what is possible. Exciting times ahead.”