• AI does in a few seconds what several people would have done in weeks
Are you thinking of a career in administrative roles, such as data entry, accounting, record keeping, ticket sales and secretarial positions? If so, your dreams are no longer valid.
Employers are increasingly adopting artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to cut costs and increase productivity. The trend will intensify in the coming years, with negative consequences on people unable to take up new skills.
AI-powered technology does in a few seconds what several people would have done in weeks. Cadres of professionals in manufacturing, graphic design, film production and payroll management are in danger of redundancy.
The good news is that there is growing demand for data analysts, machine learning experts, software developers and robotics engineers. Persons skilled in modern farming, renewable energy and sustainability will also enjoy good prospects in the green economy.
"Almost 40 per cent of global employment is exposed to AI," the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, warns.
As head of one of the world's largest-lending organisations, the IMF chief has a wide view of how AI is affecting jobs across the globe. An IMF report shows that workers with a university or college education are vulnerable to AI but are also better positioned to reap its benefits. In low-income countries such as Kenya, AI could affect 26 per cent of jobs.
"In most scenarios, AI will likely worsen overall inequality, a troubling trend that policymakers must proactively address to prevent the technology from further stoking social tensions," Georgieva warns.
The gender dimension comes into play because women are employed in jobs likely to be taken up by AI. Women are under-represented in careers that are growing because of AI, such as software development, cyber security and machine installation. This means that AI could worsen women's access to jobs.
Research carried out in Kenya's banking sector by a team from Strathmore University found that women had a greater sense of anxiety about their future with AI in comparison to men.
"There is a possibility of the gender gap in employment widening in the banking industry because of the existing gender roles," the team noted in the report published in 2021.
Among their recommendations is the inclusive development of AI, which can be done through training, upskilling and platforms to enable women to develop the necessary technical skills and boost their migration into relevant jobs.
'Artificial intelligence' generally refers to the ability of computers to perform tasks traditionally associated with humans, such as writing, recognising faces and making recommendations. Software firm Microsoft explains that AI systems use existing data to make predictions or take a set of actions. The systems are capable of learning from mistakes to increase their accuracy.
Ever wondered why adverts that appear on your phone's social media apps are based on things you have searched for before? AI analyses your online searches to deliver more of the content it believes you want to see.
A growing number of professionals are embracing the concept of a virtual assistant, which is basically the AI version of a human secretary. AI can sift through thousands of files, emails, presentations and reports to find the exact information you are looking for in a matter of minutes. It can take pictures, prepare presentations and make videos, too.
Computers are very fast and efficient at some tasks. It, therefore, makes sense for people wanting to remain relevant in employment to specialise in things that computers cannot do.
Developments in AI as well as the need for a greener future are disrupting jobs across an array of sectors, with many positions dwindling as other areas grow
Statista, the online statistical provider, lists the fastest-growing jobs in modern times. These are AI and machine learning specialists, business intelligence analysts, fintech engineers, data analysts and agricultural equipment operators. There are also good prospects for information security analysts and robotics engineers.
"Developments in AI as well as the need for a greener future are disrupting jobs across an array of sectors, with many positions dwindling as other areas grow," Anna Fleck, a data journalist at Statista, says.
Agricultural equipment operators, heavy truck and bus drivers, and teachers of vocational courses are expected to see the greatest job increases in the next five years.
"Data entry clerks, administrative and executive secretaries, as well as accounting, bookkeeping and payroll clerks, on the other hand, are thought to experience the greatest number of losses in employment," Fleck said in January.
A good example of AI making work easier is in customer service operations. A survey of 5,000 call centre agents working for a big software company found that using AI to generate responses greatly improved productivity. The agents were free to choose whether to take the suggestions from AI and send them to customers or to type their own responses.
"With AI assistance, customer service agents could handle more calls per hour and increase their resolution rate," the team of researchers wrote in an article for the National Bureau of Economic Research.
The researchers noticed that customers were less likely to ask for a supervisor when interacting with call centre agents using AI assistance compared to times when they interacted with agents not using the AI tool.
Evidence shows that Kenyans have begun adapting to AI and using it in their businesses. Data released by Internet search provider Google in September 2023 found that queries by Kenyans looking for AI courses doubled over the previous year. Queries for 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.
Meanwhile, search engine queries related to AI music generators 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.
The increased adoption of AI tools once again proves a widely disseminated quote about the future of employment. AI will not take over your job but someone using AI will.