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Is technology a threat?

Technology has changed many things in people's lives. Up to what extent will it change the world?

Recently, some people have expressed concerns about the effects of technology. The most dominant concern these days is if artificial technology (AI) would replace people in jobs. Some people worry that robots and the internet might eventually replace people in the work field.

"Technology is a very important topic for Asian economy and for ADB (Asian Development Bank)," said ADB President Takehiko Nakao during the "CNBC Debate: Technology for Change" held at the ADB headquarters in Ortigas Center, Pasig City recently.

Nakao acknowledged that there are fears that new technology will replace jobs.

The ADB chief noted that technology will bring in more products, which will result in more income and more demand for products. He also noted that the BPO (business process outsourcing) industry contributes to the country's GDP growth, and BPO uses technology.

Technology in education

Panelists in the CNBC debate highlighted technology in education.

"Education is broader than spending money (for it). Equally important is changing the mindsets, and make them (stakeholders) realize how technology can change things," remarked Mangala Samaraweera, Sri Lanka Minister of Finance and Mass Media.

Nakao, for his part, said we can use remote technology for education. Having said that, Minette Navarette, president, Kickstart Ventures, Inc., noted the need to look at the whole system.

"We brought computers to a school. But after a year, the computers are not yet removed from the box. It's not because they didn't like to use these, but because they needed electrification, the access to the internet, the knowledge to use these," she narrated.

Nakao, meanwhile, cited that the ADB has published a research on the importance of technology. "We use technology in education. But we have to make the education adaptive," he said.

Human touch

Navarette said that definitely, not 100 percent of jobs would be replaced by technology. She added that according to World Bank, only less than 5 percent of jobs would be replaced by technology. Another panelist, Nandita Parshad, managing director, Energy and Natural Resources, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, noted that definitely, people need "human brains" to work behind the technology. "The next technological change will come from scientists, not from robots," she said.

Samaraweera expressed his belief that technology will lead to higher production, which will lead to higher employment and higher growth.

"(In Sri Lanka), we offer incentives to investors in technology. The incentives are not just for Sri Lankans, but for foreign investors, too," Samaraweera shared.

Retraining is something that can be done to help people not to lose their jobs, and retraining is something that the government can do, according to Parshad.

For the ADB chief, human touch should always be present. Nakao emphasized that despite the rapid growth in technology, people still need face-to-face communication.

"Why did we bother to gather here if we could conduct this (ADB annual meeting) through the internet?" he asked.

Nakao said hearing a person's voice and seeing his or her facial expressions are still important for us to know how the other person feels.

Ma. Cristina Arayata / PNA