ABB and The Economist launch Automation Readiness Index

ABB Australia Pty Ltd

Friday, 27 April, 2018


ABB and <em>The Economist</em> launch Automation Readiness Index

In a new Automation Readiness Index (ARI) report published by ABB and The Economist, Australia is currently ranked 10th in preparedness for the coming wave of intelligent automation. The index provides a snapshot across a set of 25 countries of current government-led efforts to anticipate the resulting changes and shape the outcomes of technological progress.

Ranked 10th overall and fourth in Asia, Australia has a ‘developed’ index score of 70.4. Its strongest performance is in the Innovation Environment category. It scores particularly well for technology adoption, where it is ranked first with a score of 95.7, thanks to its participation in intergovernmental initiatives such as the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund. It also has above average scores for Education Policies and Labour Market Policies, with rankings of 11th and joint 10th respectively.

South Korea, Germany and Singapore are the world’s top-ranked nations in their preparations for smoothly integrating intelligent automation into their economies, according to an index and report released by ABB and The Economist Intelligence Unit.

The report ‘The Automation Readiness Index (ARI): Who Is Ready for the Coming Wave of Innovation?’ finds that even the best-prepared countries must develop even more effective education policies and training programs, as well as place a new emphasis on continual learning over the course of a career.

Those policies and programs, the report recommends, must ensure that the rapid adoption of automation technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) will not leave people unprepared for the new, more human-oriented jobs that will be needed as robots and algorithms take on more of the routine tasks that can be and will be automated.

“The report showcases the success pattern of the future. We must take advantage of these recommendations,” said Ulrich Spiesshofer, CEO of ABB. “The pace of innovation and job change today is so fast that everyone must have access to lifelong learning. Augmenting human potential with technology, in a responsible way, while providing ongoing education and training, is an opportunity to drive prosperity and growth.”

“It is encouraging to see Australia being noted for its proactive approach to studying and experimenting with AI applications in the learning process,” said Simon DeBell, business development manager for ABB in Australia. “This approach will assist with developing programs that are the most supportive of AI and robotics innovation and to start to address the associated educational challenges.”

The report, which surveyed and ranked 25 countries on their automation readiness, found that many nations across the globe are just beginning to come to grips with the opportunities and challenges posed by AI and robotics-based automation. It found that “more engagement between government, industry, educational specialists and other stakeholders is needed if policymaking is to keep pace with innovation in automation”.

The report emphasises that, whether policymakers are ready or not, businesses are rapidly integrating AI and advanced robotics into their operations. As that adoption accelerates in coming years, the impact on economies and workforces — and the need for a more concerted approach to education and training — will become clearer and more urgent.

In addition to South Korea, Germany and Singapore, the countries best positioned to embrace this wave of change are the other members of the ARI that round out the top 10 in ranked order: Japan, Canada, Estonia, France, the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia.

The analysis in the report is based on a new and original index, built by The Economist Intelligence Unit, as well as a series of in-depth interviews with subject matter experts from around the world. Rankings were determined based on a total of 52 qualitative and quantitative indicators selected in consultation with experts in automation, education and economics.

The new paradigm of human-robot collaboration has the potential to free people to focus their time and energy to higher-value work requiring human skills and talent, while leaving to robots the highly repetitive, physically demanding or even dangerous tasks. Such human work is likely to include designing the processes and operations for the robots to carry out, and also monitoring and overseeing the automated work performed by the machines.

Ideally, a successful transition to a manufacturing economy built around intelligent automation will provide human talent with the opportunity to achieve higher levels of productivity and, ultimately, more rewarding jobs.

But to achieve that better future, the report notes that most countries will have to elevate their vocational training programs. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curricula remain important, the report finds. But automation and AI place an even greater need on basic education programs and new types of teacher training.

ABB and The Economist Intelligence Unit plan to conduct the ARI research annually and revise the rankings each year as warranted. That will enable the index to fulfil its purpose as a tool to help governments continually identify and pursue policies that support successful participation in the highly automated, intensively digitalised global economy.

For its part, ABB is preparing for the future by creating ‘digital workplace’ environments, training employees to use digital and automation tools. ABB also supports innovation at its corporate research centres and via collaborative partnerships with start-ups through the ABB Technology Ventures (ATV) venture capital unit.

The report can be found online at http://www.automationreadiness.eiu.com/.

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