The COVID-19 is an epidemic with its presence in nearly all the continents except perhaps the Antarctica. Ironically, there has been a conspiracy linking the COVID-19 to 5G technology. Such link is a mistaken belief and based on unsound arguments. While COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a novel virus of the same family of viruses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), 5G is the fifth generation of wireless communications technologies, after 4G i.e. fourth generation, supporting data networks.
The 5G Technology is a reality we cannot escape. Its coming and other emerging technologies will transform our lives especially about how we connect millions of devices/machines and with people. It is certainly a game changer expected to enhance driverless cars, smart homes and societies, virtual medical services and surgery at a distance, virtual education and learning involving virtual classrooms and laboratories, virtual libraries and virtual teachers, smart grid and critical infrastructure, automated factories and industry processes.
While some people’s jobs will be lost, these emerging technologies will present opportunities for job creation for others. However, the new jobs will require special skills.
I am afraid that chunk of those that believe in the fallacy of 5G causing COVID-19 are likely going to lose jobs.
For instance, try and ruminate over how Uber retired hundreds of Taxi drivers who were not tech savvy. It will interest you to know that Uber has become the world’s largest Taxi company, yet owns no vehicles. Ditto Airbnb that has become the world’s largest accommodation provider without owning real estate as well as Alibaba that is the world’s most valuable retail owner, yet owns no inventory. What about the way bank transactions have been carried out between now and a decade ago? All these have been made possible because of the amazing connectivity of 4G and it will only get better with 5G.
Data will replace oil in no distant time and data analytic skills will become one of the most sought after skills all over the world. I encourage my students and others to prepare themselves for these new opportunities and learn new skills such as machine learning, cloud computing, blockchain, cyber security etc. that will be highly on demand.
Let me also encourage our governments and universities to begin the process of inculcating these skills in our educational policies and curricular.
Already, the COVID-19 outbreak poses unprecedented challenges to companies, businesses and governments prompting some forms of reactions in different ways. Governments are imposing total lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus, and revenue is being lost both by the public and private sectors. This is a terrible signal to what to expect in the coming days and months in forms of job loss and salaries to be owed or cut.
Some companies/organizations are already strategizing to ensure continuity and improve resilience of their lines of production and supply chain. As innovative ways are being implemented to generate revenue or at least stay afloat because of re-ordering brought about by the COVID-19 epidemic, it is expected that only very relevant personnel with the essential requisite skills will be retained after the war against COVID-19 is won.
Do not go from lockdown to becoming unemployed. Prepare and be ready for what is to come. Learn skills to stay relevant and gainfully employed; learn skills to become jobs creator and not just a job seeker.
Dr Abdulwaheed Musa is the Founding Director, Centre for Telecommunication Research and Development (CTRD), Kwara State University, Malete.