What Lee Waters said about The Rise of the Robots

(Title Image: BBC Wales)

We’re currently on the cusp of what’s called the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, whereby the economy becomes more responsive to big data and many industrial and service processes are either replaced by artificial intelligence or automated. In some respects, it’s already happening and could bring about changes in how we view “work” and the kind of jobs and job opportunities available in the medium-term.

There’ll be a more in-depth look at this in the next State of Wales update due on January 29th.

Proponent: Lee Waters AM (Lab, Llanelli), his full speech is available here
Subject: “The robots are coming—Wales needs a plan for automation”


  • Use of artificial intelligence is no longer confined to manufacturing, and any role with a repetitive element is likely to be affected by automation.
  • The pace of change is rapid: in 2004 Blockbuster had 84,000 employees and $6billion revenues, in 2016 Netflix employed 4,500 people and made $9billion.
  • Can’t afford “wilful blindness”; comments from Gerald Holtham that GPs could be replaced with computer programmes were pounced upon by the profession, yet it could free up time for doctors amidst staff shortages.
  • New technologies shouldn’t be seen as a direct threat to jobs but a way to free up time for front-line work and improve public services.
  • David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central): Why haven’t we got a specific unit within Welsh Government working on these challenges due to the pace of change?
  • Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E & Dinefwr): If Wales can pioneer the use of technology within the public sector via a specialist government “i-team” the “world will beat a path to our door”.

Government Response

Economy & Infrastructure Secretary, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South)

  • The Welsh economy has confronted technological changes through previous industrial revolutions and this will be no different; how we respond will determine our future economic prospects.
  • The economic action plan clearly identifies automation and digitisation as “key strategic challenges” (see also: Welsh Government: “Be smarter than robots”).
  • There are units within the Welsh Government’s digital team, universities and the Public Policy Institute working on the challenges posed by automation.
  • Increased productivity through automation can make Welsh businesses more competitive.
  • There’s a need to encourage more women and girls in particular to study science, mathematics, engineering & technology (STEM) subjects.

I never asked for this.

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