The advent of technology with its unprecedented power and capability has brought mankind to the verge of the fourth industrial revolution, where Artificial Intelligence (AI) is expected to play a significant role in disrupting the global economy, including the labour market. Looking back at history, the industrial revolution of the 1800s was successful in transforming the world economy and pushing it towards growth. In regards to this, AI too is expected to bring in unparalleled changes in the global economic landscape. But the kind of change that AI is anticipated to bring is a matter of huge concern. While some experts are of the opinion that the change can create more economic opportunities, others argue that the new wave of digitization can completely disrupt the labour or job market.
AI and automation have been a turning point for many organizations and institutions around the globe by making their operations and activities more easy and transparent. AI systems generally use machine-learning algorithms to analyze large sets of existing data to filter any individual’s internet experience. Within this system, machines quickly learn to complete tasks without being particularly programmed for it. This is how AI systems monitor or overview our online activities. Without us noticing, machine learning is able to detect whether our emails are spam; enrich our experience of online shopping by enabling e-commerce platforms to make product recommendations or suggestions; or make quick and efficient money transactions through various online payment portals or wallets.
Hence it is true that AI and robotics are changing the world, one step at a time. However, this change too has its own cost. According to a 2019 World Bank Group report, the growing dominance of robotonomics indicates loss of low skill and routine types of job. Be it from generating human actions like communication and interaction to impersonating human thoughts and emotions, there is little to what computers and devices cannot do nowadays. The social and economic changes awaited under the fourth industrial revolution are more complex and pronounced than the changes under the first industrial revolution. In this backdrop, developing and low-income nations like Nepal face more challenges in contextualizing the opportunities offered by AI.
The uncertainty regarding whether AI will replace human workers and labourers has been an underlying feature of the fourth industrial revolution. While jobs in software engineering, data analysis, cloud computing, mobile applications development, software testing, and AI are gradually increasing, tasks and activities that can be easily automated such as- administrative assistant, accountants and statisticians, and customer service representatives have seen a decline in their hiring rate. Thus, this quite evidently supports the fact that while the previous industrial revolution created mass employment through the usage of machineries and other engines, the AI revolution may result in making labour-intensive jobs more obsolete; or in other words, it may further push labourers out of the job market.
As a majority of the population in Nepal are not technology friendly, physical and manual works are given more priority than computerized works. However, AI can still be a threat to its labour market provided industries and companies learn to adapt with the growing digitization. In this context, the recent trend of technological unemployment is something that the nation has to be alert about. Technological unemployment essentially refers to the substitution or layoff of human resources for technology or other labour-saving machines. Layoffs are synonymous with unemployment and this severely affects any individual’s job security. As companies are currently demanding for more assignments to be completed in a lesser amount of time, more and more companies are switching to automation.
As a developing nation, Nepal’s unemployment rate has been estimated at 11.4 percent according to a survey conducted by the Nepal Labour Force Survey (2018-19). Keeping this in mind, along with the growing fascination with automation, our government needs to adopt proactive measures and invest in making information technology education more accessible. Initiatives, where individuals are provided with digital workshop and training prepares them to adapt to the changing face of technology or automation. This also up-skills any individual’s knowledge about technology and automation.
There is no doubt that AI can bring in enumerable fruits in the context of digital economy and connectivity across the globe. When human resources and technology work in tandem, any country can prosper. However, how a nation prepares its citizens to adapt with such rapid changes are consequential; and this is where Nepal needs to step up and broaden its horizons in regards to automation.
 “Disruptions in the Labor Market due to AI Revolution”, Devashish Shrestha, 16 March 2019, Fusemachines. Retrieved from- https://medium.com/@fusemachines/disruption-in-the-labor-market-due-to-the-ai-revolution-4e9349e52637
 “Will robots kill jobs?”, Yubaraj Guragain, 15 March 2019, The Kathmandu Post. Retrieved from- https://kathmandupost.com/opinion/2019/03/15/will-robots-kill-jobs
 “Nepal’s Future in Artificial Intelligence”, Rubin Ghimire, 08 August 2019, TechLekh. Retrieved from- https://techlekh.com/nepal-future-artificial-intelligence/
 “Nepal’s unemployment rate estimated at 11.4 percent”, 27 April 2019, The Kathmandu Post. Retrieved from- https://kathmandupost.com/money/2019/04/27/nepals-unemployment-rate-estimated-at-114-percent