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Wales needs to be a provider, not just consumer of emerging technologies, says National Assembly committee

17/08/2018

The challenges of automation and artificial intelligence will dominate the next 40 years and it is vital Wales is ready to shape the future, says a National Assembly committee.

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The Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee concluded the Welsh Government needs to identify and invest in areas where Wales already has a competitive advantage - for instance, in compound semi-conductors, insurance and healthcare - and support the sectors to be at the forefront of global industry.

The Committee looked at, among other areas, precision agriculture, autonomous vehicles and future skills needed to compete during the course of its inquiry.

It found that school curriculums will need to be changed to take into account the new skills needed as it is estimated 65 percent of children in school today will be doing jobs that haven't been invented yet.

"The growing body of studies and reports concerning automation and Artificial Intelligence, or AI, give a range of outcomes," said Russell George AM, Chair of the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee.

"It is clear that failure to prepare will be preparing to fail in this brave new world.

"We hope this report generates discussion – not just in the corridors of power, but among a wide range of businesses, across sectors and out in the streets of Wales."

The Committee was told automation will displace adults currently in the workplace, requiring them to retrain. Support will be needed for those most at risk. The number of anticipated job losses is substantial with one witness describing "technological and social transformation within 20 years. This totally exceeds anything, for example, that we saw in the coalfields over a limited period."

Mr George said:

"The challenges of automation and artificial intelligence have the potential to dominate the next 30-40 years. It is vital Wales is ready not merely to respond, but able to shape the debate, so that rather than being blown away by strong winds of change, we can harness them to propel our sails."

The Committee makes 12 recommendations in its report including:

  • The Committee considers it imperative that further work is carried out to ensure Wales is the provider, not just the consumer of emerging technologies. The Welsh Government should carry out work to:

  • identify the expertise and commercial strengths that exists in Wales, for example, in compound semi-conductors, insurance and healthcare;

  • identify Wales' competitive advantages in the anticipated growth areas;

  • Where strengths and competitive advantage aligns with predicted future growth, support those sectors to position themselves at the forefront of global industry.

The Committee will be undertaking further work in this area looking more closely at specific sectors over the coming months, and eagerly anticipating the report of the Welsh Government's review led by Professor Phil Brown.

You can read the full report here.



 

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