Barrita: Robots to replace call center agents? | SunStar

Barrita: Robots to replace call center agents?

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Barrita: Robots to replace call center agents?

Friday, November 10, 2017

IN 2035, humanoid robots serve humanity and fill government positions all over the world.

This is depicted in the Will Smith-starrer, the dystopian, neo-noir science fiction action movie, “I, Robot” (2004).

The robots soon took over the US government, including the military and the police purportedly to save humanity from extinction.

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Leaders of the Philippine business process outsourcing (BPO) industry are worried robots will replace workers in the $23 billion sector, a Reuters report said.

Artificial intelligence (AI)-powered translators could dilute the biggest advantage the Philippines has, the wide use of English. Other AI applications could take over process-driven jobs.

The robot takeover of call center jobs is expected to happen in five to ten years. Who’d rescue the call center workers from the robots?

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The Philippines’ BPO industry employs about 1.15 million people. Of this number, some 150,00 are in Cebu.

The Philippines overtook India in 2011 as the country with the biggest number of voice-based BPO services in the world.

But these workers are now under threat by robots which do not call in sick, have no limited work hours and are not paid salaries and other benefits.

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“There are definitely reasons to be concerned because technology may be able to replace some of what could happen in voice,” said Eric Simonson, managing partner of research at management consulting and research firm Everest Group.

Rey Untal, president and chief executive officer of the IT & Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP), said AI is expected to replace 40,000 to 50,000 “low-skiled” or process-driven BPO jobs in the next five years.

Industry leaders earlier feared BPO firms will return to the US. They never thought about the threat from robots.

Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on November 11, 2017.

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