The global economy is turning upside down, and every industry is at risk of disruption.

So how can jobseekers find a career that matches their skills in this time of upheaval? Artificial intelligence can help.

Microsoft is working with government ministries to identify what kind of skillsets people will need in the future, Sergio Ortega Cruz, the company’s Global Data and AI Solutions Strategist for Public Sector tells GovInsider.

Agencies can “understand where we are going, where are the gaps, how do we close those gaps, and how do we acquire those skill sets,” he adds.

Skills mapping

Skillset mapping can be done even on a national scale, analysing whether the country’s workforce has the abilities required by companies with vacancies.

It can “crunch that into decisions that we need to make” – for instance, changing the focus of educational curriculum or reallocating social investment, he says. It could also launch new dedicated vocational courses if, for example, there are many cyber security vacancies, or a sudden need for drone operators.

Every industry can be enhanced by AI, Cruz believes. For example, agriculture is making huge advances. Microsoft’s AI and Research labs are working with farmers in India and the US to trial “precision agriculture”, which can pinpoint exactly which parts of the farms need attention, such as moisture or nutrients. Using this approach, rather than spraying the entire field, has shown to increase crop yield by 40%. That is an enormous increase in the amount of food available, and also reduces costs by using less water and pesticides.

This is particularly helpful in the developing world. 70% of all Africans, and millions of Indians, make a living from agriculture, and their careers are increasingly vulnerable with the threat of climate change. Meanwhile, the world’s food production needs to increase by 70% by 2050. Governments can use AI to help farmers use data from their land and the air to better plan their crops.

The leapfrog opportunity

Just as mobile phones have transformed African countries with cheaper access to information, artificial intelligence now holds the same level of opportunity, he believes. “Developing countries are the first ones that should be able to use AI for their own benefit”, he says.

Countries with less infrastructure will not need to make additional investments to use AI tools, he adds. “What we are trying to do with AI is amplify the number of opportunities, not only in the workforce, but in general for humanity,” he says.

Governments now have ways to adapt their workforces to new skills and improve food security. And with the promise that AI holds for developing countries, they can do even more to improve people’s lives.