Sudhakar Balakrishnan, Group CEO, FirstMeridian

Sudhakar is an experienced innovator/entrepreneur with 36 years of work experience in a combination of Sales, Marketing, HR, Strategy Formulation, and P&L Management with 24 years of experience within the Human Capital business, leading the operations of Adecco India, Sify, and ABC Consultants to note among others. During his 14 years of leadership at Adecco India as the Managing Director and CEO, he drove the business to become the first HR services provider in India to cross the 100,000 marks in temporary staffing.

 

The 5th Generation technology in cellular networks, commonly referred to as the 5G network, is the next big thing in telecom and IoT. The technology is on the verge of becoming a reality in India, with leading telecom players commencing tests on the spectrum. With the official rollout, India will become a part of an exclusive club of countries where 5G has been launched, including the UK, USA, and Canada.

The 5G rollout will forever change how we regard the internet and directly impact job creation in the telecom sector. It will also have a massive impact on how we work, interact with each other, travel, and more.

Healthcare, agriculture, logistics, manufacturing, and automotive will change rapidly, as the 5G allows quicker adoption of several other technologies. This will have a direct impact on job creation across all these sectors. However, the skills required from the future workforce will be vastly different from what is in demand today.

5G as a change-catalyst across sectors

India currently ranks 130 on mobile internet speeds, as per Ookla Speed Tests, on the 4G spectrum, with an average download speed of 12.81 Mbps and upload speeds of 4.79 Mbps.

The recent 5G spectrum trials by a leading telecom player clocked speeds of 1 Gbps. The implications of the availability of such speed are massive across all sectors. The pace of adoption of new technologies will ramp up rapidly, creating new jobs.

However, we need to ask ourselves if the future workforce is equipped with the right skills to participate in this growth opportunity.

Currently, skills in cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Big Data, etc., are in high demand. These will continue to grow in the future; however, further segregations will happen in each sector, leading to more specialised skill sets.

For instance, the Indian agriculture sector is expected to deploy more technologies in the field. Drone operators and remote pilots will be in demand as network-controlled technology replaces manually performed tasks like sowing, watering, and reaping crops.

There will also be a high demand for Precision Agriculture Software Developers and advanced blue-collar occupations such as Field Sensor Technicians. Blockchain technologies could also be deployed in agriculture, ensuring more robust and secure supply chains.

Industrial automation is expected to increase multifold with the deployment of the 5G spectrum in India. These are expected to create new jobs in Digital Manufacturing Platform Development, Robotics Maintenance, Mobile Logistics, and Autonomous Vehicle Maintenance.

These jobs require a workforce that is skilled to use these technologies and also adapt to further changes. This requires a realignment in the way we approach skill development and training.

5G in the Education sector

India, with over 250 million students, represents one of the largest education sectors in the world. Over 25% of the population is between the age group of 05 and 14 years, requiring a robust education system to prepare the future workforce.

The Government of India has implemented various schemes to ensure students are equipped with the right skills for the future. However, the pandemic was a disruptor in education. Several millions of students across age groups moved to online learning. The pandemic also exposed unequal access to technology and the necessary infrastructure to impart knowledge.

‘Virtual’ classes have become the norm today. Thus far, this format was primarily restricted by ‘learning-by-choice’ and not in primary and secondary education. However, the pandemic requires a shift in thinking and approach, and people across the country have realised the advantages of virtual schools.

India has become the second-largest market for e-learning, after the US. According to a RedSeer and Omidyar Network India survey, the online education industry for students in grades 1 through 12 is expected to grow 6.3 times in the next year, to $1.7 billion.

However, to ensure equal access to all, robust connectivity is essential – across every corner of the country. 5G in the education sector has the potential to open up new avenues of learning and engagement.

The education industry is one of the fastest-growing domains of IoT (Internet of Things) applications, with a great potential to improve today’s teaching, learning and campus operations. With the deployment of 5G services, e-learning, advanced technology, and computer facilities will be more widely adopted by institutions globally.

Smart classrooms will provide better learning tools and have better results, making the education system more effective and valuable. This will be possible with the availability of faster internet connectivity that 5G is expected to offer.

Good connectivity is required for an educational institution to make the most out of Augmented Reality (AR) & Virtual Reality (VR). When using AR and VR, 4G internet is known to lag, which might negatively impact students’ learning experiences. Educators can use virtual reality (VR) to allow students to have a more engaging and immersive experience.

Students will enjoy a more seamless learning experience if 5G technology is used instead of 4G technology. Students benefit from AR learning because it reduces the time required to learn complex concepts. Teachers’ and students’ interactions with each other and their resources may be altered due to next-generation network power. AR, similar to VR, can boost creativity, involvement, and engagement in learning methods.

Primary and secondary schooling in rural areas will see a massive improvement with better connectivity. With its incredible speed – 5G will considerably improve the quality of education by allowing for rapid interactivity and connectivity with multiple devices. Students in rural areas would be able to participate during classes in real-time.

The connectivity will also open up opportunities for connecting the students with top facilitators in the education system. The connectivity will also enable students to opt for higher education through online courses and help them land decent jobs and build a better life for themselves. This will eventually lead to faster socio-economic growth.

Application of 5G in higher education will allow students to learn how to use advanced technologies and innovate and create with them, helping students as they step into the working world. It will help students develop critical thinking skills and collaborate more effectively. Regardless of distance or location, 5G empowers students to access the same information and exercises as their fellow students and learn at their own pace without losing out on anything.

The shift to virtual schooling will also create more job opportunities, with high talent demand for Online/Tele Student Help Desks, Cloud Architecture, and Advanced Learning Analytics. The broad implementation of AR and VR technologies in educational institutions will require appropriate skills for implementation. Teachers will also need to upskill to use these technologies effectively.

Conclusion

The 5G rollout services will result in large-scale infrastructure investments from government and private sectors to connect rural areas with high-speed internet networks. This will open a new door full of opportunities and faster adoption of ‘Digital India’.

The preparation to participate in this movement has already begun and needs to amplify further to take full advantage of the benefits. 5G will also have a significant role in bridging the skill gap among students, teachers, and working professionals. Higher education courses need to be designed so that students will acquire the required knowledge and skills to take on the job opportunities that will be available in the near future in a digitally dominated world.

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