Since 2016 he is also President of APPIA (Portuguese Association for Artificial Intelligence). Novais believes that nowadays "a country’s development is perceived by the importance and the clear definition of a digital strategy". It is a path without a return. "Digital in its many dimensions will influence and manifest decisively in our future and in the most fundamental aspects of our lives. From public health and education services, through banking and financial services, or to the simplest factors that condition life in society."
For him, who is representative of Portugal at IFIP (International Federation for Information Processing) - TC 12 Artificial Intelligence, Brazil is close to the European reality in terms of providing digital services. "The biggest problem in Brazil is the fact that a big part of the population still doesn’t have access to this new world." Brazil’s challenge - and any other country according to the Portuguese professor-, is to use digital transformation to their advantage.
Novais is also member of the Executive Committee of IBERAMIA (Ibero American Society of Artificial Intelligence) and coordinator of the Scientific Committee of the Gulbenkian New Talent Program in Artificial Intelligence at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. He also has a role as an expert in the European Commission, the Foundation for Science and Technology, the National Innovation Agency, among other entities.
Check out below the complete interview of Paulo Novais about digital transformation.
Sector Dialogues – After the 2nd Edition of the ICT Week, what do you think about this thematic event and the importance to continue with coming editions? Is innovation and digital transformation a key issue to be follow up addressed within the EU-Brazil Strategic Partnership?
Novais – Digital transformation is a critical topic for Brazil’s future and for any other country that wants to keep ahead in innovation. The development of a country now passes through the perception of the importance and the clear definition of a digital strategy. Digital in its many dimensions will influence and manifest decisively in our future and in the most fundamental aspects of our lives, from public health and education services, through banking and financial services, to the simplest factors which condition the life in society. The ICT Week allows the exchange between different societies and other realities, which is one of the fundamental pillars for the full understanding of these phenomena.
Sector Dialogues – What can we expect regarding innovation and digital transformation worldwide? Does it assume as a risk or a challenge in order to be replaced by robots in most roles in the future?
Novais – The world is changing. This is a fact and I add: it is changing fast. But history also teaches us that the world has always been in constant transformation. Every generation feels that their world is changing. It has always been. Robots have been stealing our jobs for over 50 years! So why are we worried about it? Does anyone want to be a welder or car painter on an intensive, dehumanized production line? Or in any context of a dirty, heavy or dangerous work for the human being? It should be remembered that robots are more efficient and productive in these tasks and, in the future, they will be even more. Self-propelled vehicles, for instance, are going to be launched soon. Historically, it is still clear that there has been an evolution with the progressive shift from predominantly manual work to more intellectual one. The tasks normally associated with cognition are currently, in general, the best renumbered and most recognized (in this regard I recommend reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humanity by Yuval Harari). There are, on the horizon, some interesting signs. The largest and strongest economies in the world with a high rate of robotization are, however, keeping unemployment levels down and, in some cases, historically low rates. Why? Because the work is also changing. If, in fact, the tendency is for the slow disappearance of routine (manual or cognitive) work, in contrast, non-routine work is showing signs of high growth. New needs and new jobs arise in the health sector, social assistance, in scientific and technical contexts, in the protection of the environment, as well as in education and training, those are sectors where interaction with man and creativity are fundamental. The writer Fernando Pessoa affirmed that "no man has the privilege of understanding the future, unless he is prepared to create it". The path we must go through is there!
Sector Dialogues – Comparing with some countries, Brazil is very underdeveloped regarding digital transformation. What are the main challenges that Brazil faces?
Novais – I do not agree with the statement. From what I have observed, and I know about the Brazilian reality, Brazil is relatively close to the European reality in terms of the availability of digital services. Either in the dynamism I observed in the different Start-ups or in the decision makers present at the ICT Week. In my opinion, Brazil’s biggest problem is the fact that a large part of the population still doesn’t have access to this new world. It’s not enough to have certain technology available, you must know how to use it to your advantage.
Sector Dialogues – In your opinion, which countries are global leaders and example of innovation and digital transformation? How can Brazil make part of the fourth industrial revolution and join those countries?
Novais – The United States, Europe, and some Asian countries such as China, Japan and South Korea are at the forefront. But any country, even those that are leading, can only continue to lead if they continue to invest and, as always, to encourage exchanges and cooperation with others. In this context, only those societies that are able to open up and absorb the transformations and use them to their advantage are going to survive.
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