Sci & Tech

Automation a Distant Obstacle

Auto and Tech Desk
Global trends are predicting the end of jobs, but why is Iran lagging behind?
Artificial intelligence may have helped shape Donald Trump’s presidency by spreading the fear of the future.
Artificial intelligence may have helped shape Donald Trump’s presidency by spreading the fear of the future.
Companies in Iran do not seem interested in laying off their staff, but prefer to keep more people on at lower salaries

The World Economic Forum declared way back in 2013 how automation would affect the lives of the 7 billion people on the planet, but as ever the report looked primarily into the key issues that would afflict people living in developed economies and developing economies hardly got a mention.

It is the end of 2016 now and the debate has moved on at a rapid pace, with at least two popular television shows in the US and the UK spreading the narrative of “the end of jobs” through the use of artificial intelligence.

However, with the election of Donald Trump fresh on everyone’s mind and the clouds darkening the uncertain future, the world faces a situation far acute than what the television shows predicted.

 Fear of Automation

For Trump’s election is a rejection of the present, the automation of life, depreciation of wealth and the cost cutting off American jobs. His election win, as some pundits say, is a rejection of the neo-liberal present, and harks back to a time of job losses and low employment.

Disruption, the term bandied around of late, has suddenly moved from the startup industry and into the political arena, and no one knows where it will take the world.

Trump’s victory is more a reaction to present trends and seeks to pull back from where the US currently is. However convoluted his ideas may be, that tone apparently struck a chord with people who fear losing their jobs.

 Journalists wax lyrical about the costs and savings that they can accrue from automating their work and products, but ultimately the wave has not yet hit Iran, let alone the cost savings that come along with the baggage.

The Financial Times reported in 2015 that the Eastern and Western countries are charging ahead with automation and cost cutting, which ultimately culminates in job losses.

Today, China, South Korea and Japan are not shy on working hours, as they fix their sights on bottom lines and profit forecasts.

These countries are also looking to automate their production and offices as much as possible to squeeze out as much profit as possible. Perhaps a Trump-like figure may emerge in these countries, too.  

 No Such Fears in Iran

However, Iran’s government and private sectors have been much slower to enact measures to cut costs by using technology and such moves have only been made in recent years.

Although many of the technologies available elsewhere have made their way to Iran over the past few years, efficiency still seems to be an area local companies are reluctant to embrace.

There are, however, some e-commerce businesses that are looking to move past the traditional modes of merchant-retailer-customer relationships by using technology as its essential resource for marketing products.

Such examples can be seen in the shape of DigiKala, Iran’s largest e-commerce store that self-designated itself as Iran’s answer to Amazon.

But, unlike its American counterpart, it falls short of using technology and robotics in its warehousing operations.

One accelerator mentor referred to a top e-commerce startup in Iran and the Middle East, DigiKala.

“All these people do is buy in bulk and stockpile their goods … This in itself is not new or unique, but it is simply a more modern form of the traditional bazaar mentality.”

Nevertheless, he noted that it has gained the lead in the market.

Companies in Iran do not seem interested in laying off their staff but prefer to keep more people on at lower salaries. This tactic compounds issues of inefficiencies, as people are either too poor to buy goods to make their lives better or too exhausted working more hours per week.

This mentality makes a company less efficient due to the long working hours, because of which productivity drops off the chart.

The administration of President Hassan Rouhani is attempting to turn the country’s government services digital, with a great deal of activities, including submission of tax documents and all academic administrative work, going online.

However, the government has increased, rather than decrease, its workforce. It has increased the number of people in the last Iranian year (ended March 19, 2016) to over 2.03 million, Mehr News Agency reported.

Ultimately, the global shocks will also be felt in Iran in the coming decade, as tighter budgets and need to cut costs in ministries and businesses will force automation on the workforce. It is not a matter of if, but when.


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