News: Upskilling Needed to Save BPO Employees from the Effects of AI!

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) held a forum “Technology for Inclusion” in which Accenture Philippines Senior Managing Director, Ambe Tierro, declares a chilling truth: 16% of BPO workers are projected to be at risk due to artificial intelligence.

16 for every one hundred workers may lose their work.

Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained!

According to Ambe Tierro, jobs will be lost and new jobs will be created, and the only way to combat obsolescence is through “upskilling and reskilling.”

Ambe Tierro, Accenture Philippines


“You never know what will happen in terms of creating new industries and new markets because of these technologies. But I would like to offer, if we are merely focusing on job gains, job losses, we are missing a crucial point because as earlier covered, the most important impact of artificial intelligence is the nature of the jobs and the reconfiguration of those jobs…”

Robotics Process Automation and the new jobs that come with it!

Ambe Tierro furthered that local BPO’s have already begun to implement robotics process automation (RPA) on a very wide scale, a move that will require a new breed of workers who are capable of data modeling, algorithm authoring, and output analysis.

Accenture Philippines has already implemented a digital platform that allows their workforce to participate in activities that focus on up-skilling/re-skilling.

Give the More Interesting Problems to Humans!

Ambe Tierro, Accenture Philippines


“Many companies are adopting conversational AI technologies and the application of that are virtual agents and for me, personally, it takes the robot out of the human because now they don’t have to answer the repetitive questions because the virtual agents handle those and the human agents now get the more interesting problems.”

The Threat of AI is Unrealistic…

But according to Sameer Khatiwada, ADB Economic Research and Regional Cooperation Department Economist, the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (aka 4IR, i.e. artificial intelligence et. al.) can be a bit farfetched.

Sameer Khatiwada


“Doomsday predictions of mass joblessness are not realistic. Even pessimistic projections of employment growth in the sector show steady increases in job creation… Across the industry, there will be more jobs in five years in medium-skill occupations, such as financial data analysis and for high-skill workers like computer programmers.”

(Contrast this with the estimates put forward by the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines: low-skill BPO work will drop to 27% by 2022 from a high of 47% in 2016)

Sameer added that low level, process driven BPO work such as data entry assistants and customer support clerks will be handled through automation.

Sameer cautions though that the Philippines cannot be complacent versus its status as a world leader in BPO services, and that an education focused thrust should be pursued in order to handle the demands of 4IR. According to ADB figures, the local BPO sector has been a major economic player in the country for the past 20 years, with a 13% share of the global market. In fact, BPO’s contribute to around 6% to the GDP, and has provided 1.2M jobs to Filipinos.