By Balaji Ganapathy, Head of Workforce Effectiveness, Tata Consultancy Services

It has been truly rewarding to see the paradigm shift that has occurred in the business innovation cycle. Technological advancements have allowed companies to accelerate their adoption of digital technologies, allowing them to enter what we at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) call Business 4.0 – a new way of operating.

But Business 4.0 is much more than forging a path towards digitalization. It’s a complete mindset shift. Businesses are waking up to the competitive advantage created by being intelligent, agile, automated and on the cloud. In the process, they are undergoing a mindset shift from ‘optimizing scarce resources’ to ‘harnessing abundance’.

Recently, I have been pondering what Business 4.0 means when it comes to our mission to improve the quality of life in the communities we work in.

To me, it means giving everyone access to the opportunities that these new technologies create.

I believe that we can use the same mindset of harnessing abundance to drive progress towards equal opportunities for all in this brave new world.

Not only is this our moral obligation, but it’s the fundamental ethos of our business.

Tackling inequality

We live in a world that is at a crossroads.

In thought experiments within the World Economic Forum’s system initiative on Shaping the Future of Education, Gender and Work, TCS, along with other partnering organizations, reviewed the full spectrum of possible outcomes from the rise of digital technologies. Those include full employment or mass unemployment, mass entrepreneurship or a post-work society, and an increasingly polarized world.

The heartening consensus from industry leaders is that we still have the ability to influence the future that we want.

The problem is that we live in a world of economic, gender and ethnic inequities; with systemic barriers preventing large sections of society from having access to the opportunities created by Business 4.0.

The United Nation’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development are a great call to action of how world leaders can converge around a simple, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-bound way of making the world a better place by 2030.

However, they need to be framed around a mindset that believes we can truly tackle inequality.

Traditionally, we tend to be limited by the mindset of scarce resources, even when private, public and civic sectors come together to address these inequities.

But I believe we can harness the abundance created by technological advancement to develop innovative solutions.

Creating resilience

A big piece of solving the puzzle of equal opportunity lies in creating an awareness and understanding of, and expertise in, digital technologies. Nowhere is this more critical than in the current and future workforce.

Key to our approach is re- and upskilling the population to give them equal access to the jobs of the future. As Google’s Sundar Pichai said in a recent opinion piece, digital skills and lifelong learning through continuous education is crucial to making sure that everyone has opportunities in the future workplace.

At TCS, we use our in-depth knowledge – garnered through our 50-year industry experience, market know-how from operating in 46 countries, and the project experiences and cultural competency of our 417,000 employees from 151 nationalities – to develop and implement innovative solutions that build digital skills among all segments of the workforce.

There are three underlying philosophies that guide TCS’ approach for community initiatives in the area of education and skills development: Firstly, upskilling and reskilling our own employees, secondly, preparing young people for 21st century careers and thirdly, empowering women and minorities who are underrepresented in the workforce.

For example, I am optimistic that groundbreaking partnerships such as those between TCS and Discovery Education to launch Ignite My Future in School hold the key to adopting education reform that can harness abundance and democratize access to opportunity for a whole generation of people.

As the project partner for the World Economic Forum’s Closing the Skills Gap Initiative, it has been heartening to see businesses worldwide answer the call for commitments towards closing the skills gap. Last year at the Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, we announced 8.1 million pledges from businesses to upskill and reskill people.

In one year, this pledge has increased to 17.2 million– a perfect example of how businesses can take the lead in preparing people with skills that will open the doors to new jobs and careers in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Not only will these initiatives aid future-readiness of the communities, they will also create resilience towards the adoption of new technologies such as artificial intelligence. We believe that businesses should strategically seek opportunities to partner with organizations – such as those in the nonprofit sector – that are delivering such sustainable solutions to the community.

Moving forward

Governments, corporations, policymakers, educators and civic organizations all have to work on new models of preparing people for the future of work.

Businesses have a pivotal role to play in the development and implementation of these solutions. And they must rise to this societal challenge.