Nearshore Americas

Automation May Sound Death Knell For Caribbean Contact Center Industry: IDB President

Call center business in the Caribbean will be hard hit if the developed world continued to adopt artificial intelligence such as robotics and automation, Inter-American Development Bank President Luis Alberto Moreno has warned.

Moreno’s warning came during his speech at the Dominican National Business Council´s (Conep) 8th annual business convention, according to Dominican Today. He predicted that technologies could make half of the most popular occupations obsolete.

Not just telemarketing, but several repeatable processes such as sewing of garments or the filing of documents could also be automated in the years ahead, the Dominican paper reported.

He said similarly at IDB’s event organized to celebrate the 5th anniversary of INTAL, a unit of the bank: “Disruptive technologies have an amazing potential for transformation, but at the same time they pose challenges for employment and trade.”

Moreno is not the first to make such predictions. Last year, Australia’s Telstra chief executive David Thodey predicted that call centre jobs across a range of sectors would not exist in five years thanks to the internet and smartphone applications.

Even Gartner predicted that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationships with enterprise without interacting with a human.

Moreno has pointed his accusing finger at robotic process atomization (RPA), which is nothing but a refined version of enterprise software that acts like a virtual employee, handling structured tasks and administrative work that would take teams of human employees much longer to complete.

Although it is true that automation does have the potential to hit the industry hard, there is little data as to how many call center jobs have already been lost to automation. Telstra admitted that it made 1600 positions redundant in the 12 months ending June 30, 2014.

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“Every half century on average, a technological revolution impacts the global economy and alters the patterns of integration and trade. Artificial intelligence, robotics, drones, 3D printers, the Internet of Things, virtual reality and digital networks are just some of the phenomena that today challenge the classic rules of trade in goods and services,” Moreno said.

Narayan Ammachchi

News Editor for Nearshore Americas, Narayan Ammachchi is a career journalist with a decade of experience in politics and international business. He works out of his base in the Indian Silicon City of Bangalore.

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