The great challenge
Publish date 14-09-2021
One of the greatest masters of Sermig, the Turin scholar Giorgio Ceragioli, to whom our University of Dialogue is dedicated, taught us that to reduce pollution we need more technology, and not less technology. And that it is necessary to use all the experience of the centuries and access all the technology, all the science of the present, not to compete in the race for consumption, but to reach high thresholds of human development. Ceragioli presented technology to us not as a threat to employment or customs, but as a hope to solve many problems of the poorest. He urged us not to be dominated by technology, but to dominate it in favor of man.
Faced with a sudden and almost overwhelming technological progress, which makes everything that is not digital exceeded, we run the risk of dividing society between those who are involved in this change and manage to dominate it and those who suffer it or are completely excluded from it. We have a responsibility to lead this process to reduce inequalities instead of increasing them and to raise the threshold of human development as Ceragioli reminded us.
It is not the first time that humanity has faced an industrial revolution. The first industrial revolution dates back to the second half of the 1700s with the introduction of machines powered by mechanical energy and the use of new energy sources such as coal, while the second industrial revolution began around 1870 with the introduction of electricity. chemicals and petroleum. Even in these historical periods, the innovation of machinery and tools caused great changes in the work and also great protests for the loss of some jobs. Think for example of the Luddite movement. One hundred years later the third industrial revolution begins with the massive introduction of electronics, telecommunications and information technology. The one in which we are immersed is considered the fourth industrial revolution and is based on the pervasive diffusion, in every productive and social sector of digital technology, a transformation that provides for a strong integration of digital technologies in industrial processes, changing not only products in depth, but also the production methods.
If it is in manufacturing that we observe the most explosive impact of digital, we must recognize that this technology now affects any area of life: from healthcare (telemedicine, tracing of infections, to give examples) to commerce (e-commerce) to education (the infamous distance learning) to the way of working (smart working in the pandemic broke into the lives of 5 million Italians) and so on. It's almost easier nowadays to list businesses that don't use digital technology than the other way around. The Public Administration is also evolving, making an increasing number of digital services available to citizens, as are credit institutions.
What are the challenges of this which is to all intents and purposes a revolution?
The first is to fully grasp these innovations and not to be left behind. In one of his speeches on April 24, Mario Draghi attributed the inability of the Italian economy to keep pace with other advanced European countries and to correct its social and environmental imbalances, stating that the cause of this delay is mostly linked to the lack of adequate infrastructures, to the structure of the Italian productive fabric, characterized by a prevalence of small and medium-sized enterprises, and finally to the inability to seize the many opportunities linked to the digital revolution. Therefore, even the lack of digitalization of companies is at the origin of Italy's anemic growth in recent years.
Il Sole 24 Ore of 29 April 2021 reports on a survey presented by Unioncamere according to which, for more than two thirds of Italian manufacturing, the great opportunities offered by technologies are not on the agenda, despite the fact that it is estimated that digitization is worth up to 7 points of GDP.
The first major challenge is therefore to rapidly and effectively promote technology transfer to Italian companies, whether they are related to industry, services, trade, tourism or agriculture. Not to mention the extension of ultra-broadband to the whole territory, including internal areas, more peripheral and disadvantaged, to guarantee access to fast internet and the possibility of productive activities in step with the times. Having access to broadband is essential for students, teachers and workers, the only way to economic development.
The second challenge concerns the resilience of the labor market. It is clear that the very rapid progress of robotics, artificial intelligence and online services are reducing jobs, putting entire professional categories in crisis, both in industry and in services, but it is also true that, in parallel with this phenomenon , we will see an increase in productivity (up to + 20% in digitized companies) and profits (+ 25%) thanks to the innovations brought by industry 4.0. This transition phase must be politically guided, considering that both the green and the digital turning point will also create new opportunities and new types of professionalism. On the one hand, the urgency is to bring demand and supply of work together by enhancing the study paths that best meet the new needs and, on the other, to launch a large digital training plan that puts the already contracted workforce in step with the epochal change that we are living and relocating it in case of job loss. Continuous training is needed. The digital illiteracy of the older population groups risks widening the generational gap and creating new forms of inequality. The digital revolution, but also the pandemic, will require a real "reconstruction of work" devastated by the consequences of these events on production, consumption, and trade. In the period from February 2020 to February 2021 alone, a job loss in Italy of just under one million is estimated. The theme is therefore not only how to keep a job in the face of profound technological changes, but also how to create job opportunities thanks to technological innovations that generate new products or services. Without forgetting that even behind highly automated procedures there must be a human contribution, to know and master what is behind the technology and understand any errors in the process. Higher and new specialization university and professional training will be central to the new production model.
The third challenge concerns the legislator and the social partners more closely and consists in the formulation of updated legislation and agreements, which for example regulate:
- smart working, so that it does not become a new form of exploitation of the worker and at the same time is accessible for those parents who see it as a tool for reconciling professional and family life,
- the taxation of large multinationals such as Amazon, so that they do not have an excessive advantage over small community shops,
- a new impulse to technological and scientific research
- the possibility of sharing the same amount of work among several people, given that the advent of increasingly advanced machinery will reduce the work available. As the exponent of the CISL Roberto Benaglia reminded us, productivity does not grow only with the digitization of processes and machinery, but also thanks to the quality of the environment and work organization, to which the agreements between the parties contribute to a large extent. social.
Finally, the fourth challenge concerns the great match of the funds of the Next Generation EU, which for 20% are dedicated to digital and cannot be dispersed, being a historic opportunity for the modernization of the country. The digital revolution involves an epochal technological transition and this creates uncertainty and sometimes concern, but it is now clear that the social and economic risk increases more if we do not adopt this new technology. The point therefore is to regulate it and govern it in the best possible way, always in favor of man.
NP may 2021