neologism -Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0 is not uncommon for
policymakers and technocrats. Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of
the World Economic Forum (WEF), published a book titled “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” and coined the term at
the Davos meeting in 2016. Since then, “Industry 4.0” has been a buzzword in
all major economic and business summits.

In a paper
titled – The Fourth Industrial Revolution:
what it means, how to respond
, Klaus Schwab, said “this
revolution is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the
lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. There are three
reasons why today’s transformations represent not merely a prolongation of the
Third Industrial Revolution but rather the arrival of a fourth and distinct
one: Velocity, scope, and systems impact.”
The world is at the cusp of an
unrivalled revolution. The first revolution captivated water and steam to
mechanise production, the second exploited electric power and the third relied
on electronics and IT. The fourth one is a conglomeration of various automation
technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things
(IoT), blockchain, fintech, autonomous vehicles, 5G telephony, nanotechnology,
biotech, machine learning, robotics, quantum computing and the like.

Davis, head of Society and Innovation at WEF in this WEF paper, describes this revolution as the
emergence of cyber-physical systems which, while being “reliant on the technologies and infrastructure of the third industrial
revolution…, represent entirely new ways in which technology becomes embedded
within societies and even our human bodies”.

4.0 is shaped by advanced technologies from different spheres like the physical
and digital worlds that combine to create innovations at a speed and scale
unparalleled in human history. The fourth industrial revolution demands
ubiquitous digitization, automatic machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and
is constantly transforming how individuals, governments and companies relate to
each other and the world at large. With such sudden disruption, it will
radically change macroeconomics and the way the industry responds to the needs
of civil society.

Great and
sudden change by its very nature is painful to accommodate. Preparing for the
Fourth Industrial Revolution is a subjective task. Developed economies like the
United States, Russia, China, etc. will have to frame policies according to
their economic and technological demands. For a growing economy like India with
its under utilised population, young age and cultural diversity, a more
people-intensive approach should be adopted. This will require policymakers to
harness the industrial change instead of being a reactive agent. In democracies
like India, it is effective law-making which plays a major role to deliver
regulatory frameworks that change often and respond to the stimulus.

The speed
of change is unexcelled. It is disrupting almost every industry in every
country, and it presages the transformation of production and governance. The
gap between the 1st and 2nd industrial revolution was around 100 years, 2nd and
3rd was approximately 70 years, 3rd and 4th is 25 years. Analysing this trend,
it cannot be ruled out that the next industrial revolution may take place
within 10-15 years. So, it is very important that economies pool their
resources, take risks, make new investments and come together for better
agility to adapt quickly to make the best use of this global change. 

Going into
the history of industrial revolutions, it is apparent from a layman analysis
that whichever country early participated in the industrial process turned out
to become world leaders right after that industrial revolution. India is a
young nation aiming to be the third largest with a10 trillion-dollar economy by
2030, India has no option but to not only participate but also be the
frontrunner in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

In 1750 AD,
India’s share of global industrial output was roughly above 25%. India missed
the bus of first industrialisation due to the devious British Raj and by 1900,
this had plummeted to 2%. While India’s contribution to the world GDP was 2.6
per cent in 2014, it has increased to 3.3 per cent in 2017. Addressing the
joint sitting of the Parliament, the President of India said the country’s GDP has been growing at a rate
of 7.3 per cent on an average, making India the sixth largest economy in the
world. India is playing a vital role in international trade in the Asia Pacific
region. The President also noted that this is an opportune moment for the
country to play a decisive role in the fourth industrial revolution considering
its economic position. 

channelling of resources towards Industry 4.0 can help India leapfrog
traditional phases of development and accelerate its metamorphosis to a
developed nation. Being the fastest growing economy, deploying these
technologies optimally and strategically can create more sustainable growth. A
culturally accommodative nation with more than 70% of its population under the
age of 32, India’s role is also going to be crucial in shaping the global
Fourth Industrial Revolution agenda in a millennial and inclusive manner. India
has the potential to be the global hub for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

entrepreneurs, business houses and start-ups are rapidly adopting technologies
involving AI, the Internet of Things, 3D-printing, advanced robotics and
blockchain. Artificial intelligence can be used effectively to reduce poverty,
improve the lives of farmers and make the lives of the differently abled
simpler. The application of AI in sectors from health to law, from
manufacturing to finance, from elections to governance, is not an impossible
reality. Blockchain can facilitate cross-border data and technology transfers
to support government services and natural resource management. India recently
came up with its unmanned aircraft systems policy, commonly referred to as drones,
having the ability to strengthen defence and security, make dangerous jobs
safe, and act as a lifeline for remote populations.

the pace of growth of automation technologies, it is absolutely possible that
we will reach a point called “singularity” where machines become as smart
as humans and then keep getting smarter. 
Repetitive processes are increasingly becoming automated. Digital
technologies have the potentiality to bring about the balance between green and
growth, data and infrastructure, and profits and people. Technology will soon
be able to edit genes to create favourable traits and new life forms. 3D
Printers may become capable to produce fully functional, usable organs.
Artificial blood might soon become a reality and the oceans would be harvested
for food. Banks and financial sectors in India are already using chatbots and
humanoid robots.  A Kannada-speaking robot in Canara Bank in Karnataka and Ira robot of the HDFC Bank which helps
customers choose the right service and financial products are examples of
linguistic coding of automation technologies.

It is estimated that between 2018 and 2022, as many as 75
million jobs will be displaced worldwide due to automation; however, as many as
133 million new ones would be created. 
In the United States alone, it is estimated that 1.4 million workers
will be displaced in the coming decade as a result of the introduction of new
technologies. India’s information technology sector is already witnessing
jobless growth and there are various reports showing India unemployment rate hit
a 45 year high in 2017-18. The biggest concern of Industry 4.0 for every
growing economy is the loss of jobs. A potential answer to this problem is – smart politics. In a country like India
with 1.3 billion people, it is practically impossible for any government in the
world to provide jobs to everyone, what is practical is to engage people. This
engagement is not only about job creation but also about start-ups, alliances,
businesses, offshoring, etc. which will sufficiently help an economy to
capitalise the resource pool.

Like all
revolutions that preceded it, the Fourth Industrial Revolution has the
potential to raise income levels and improve the quality of life globally.
Mitigating the relevancy of jobs is not India specific, it is a global issue.
But the peculiarity of this problem is the method of tackling it. Smart
policies and smart thinking can reconstruct these challenges into
opportunities. When the first computer was invented, there was a worldwide
outcry on its impact on jobs, but history is the evidence of the fact that
computers created more jobs than it destroyed. India too faced national
protests against the computerisation of railway tickets as economists predicted
it would take its toll on the jobs. Today, Indian Railways is India’s largest
employer and is about to conduct the world largest employment drive with around 2.37 crore applicants
competing for 1.27 lakh posts.

Given the
Fourth Industrial Revolution’s rapid pace of change, it is important for
governments and international organisations to evaluate whether to create
change or follow the change.  Legislators
and regulators are being challenged to an unprecedented degree and for the most
part is proving unable to frame a flexible framework. Unconventional challenges
need collaborative efforts. India will have to create a long-term ecosystem
with the right mix of accelerators comprising of regulatory frameworks,
educational ecosystems and government incentives that train and educates

philosophy “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” or
“the world is one family”, has guided the nation since Vedic times. It is based
on the blending of science and spirituality for harmonious co-existence
reaffirms faith in innovation and adaptability. India can act as a coordinator
to collaborate with global economies to form a joint platform or
intergovernmental taskforce involving all stakeholders of the global polity for
leveraging most of the Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies.

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