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July 8, 2020updated 09 Jul 2020 6:18pm

Arm CEO: “We now have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to design a new future”

By Lucy Ingham

While the past few months have been brutal, Simon Segars, CEO of semiconductor giant Arm, sees considerable opportunity to use the post-Covid chaos as an opportunity to create a better future supported by technology.

“Shuttering the economy is not an option anyone would have chosen,” says Segars, speaking at a talk at the Collision from Home technology conference.

“However, we now have a once in a lifetime opportunity to design a new future.”

With so much of the economy reopening or requiring rebuilding, Segars sees considerable opportunity for businesses, government and society to take a fresh approach.

“This is as close to a clean slate as it gets,” he says, “because we can be strategic about where we deploy investment to create infrastructure that will enable us to pursue both economic prosperity and a more sustainable, more equitable future for everyone.”

The tech industry needs to “double down”: Arm CEO

Turning his attention to the technology industry’s track record on sustainability and contributions to society, Segars argues that while efforts have been made, companies now need to step up their work in this area.

“The tech industry has been making commitments towards a sustainable future, energy-efficient computing and infrastructure, they all help, but now is the time to double down,” he says.

One area he sees particular promise is in the way that we do work, particularly given the unprecedented rise in remote working that the coronavirus has necessitated.

“We can design the future of work around telecommuting to necessitate less travel, thereby lowering carbon emissions in enabling economic growth in remote areas, away from the established work hubs in big cities,” he says.

“As we look into this future, we need to think about how the tech industry can uniquely contribute so that we emerge from this crisis, not just with new gadgets, but with solutions aligned to our health and security.”

Creating new opportunities through technological advances

The Arm CEO highlighted in particular how the coronavirus had caused widespread job loss, with many industries seeing those jobs ceasing to exist altogether. However, with advances in technology, he expects new roles also to be created, and he argues that the tech industry needs to help in connecting those affected to such positions.

“It is possible that not all the jobs that have been lost in this recession will come back. So how can we in the technology industry contribute to rescaling in a meaningful way? I think we have an important role to play because digital skills are going to be in hot demand,” he says.

He gives examples such as the rise of data analysis jobs in utilities, fibre and cellular installation roles and 5G-enabled manufacturing and healthcare positions, all of which he sees being “increasingly technically orientated”.

“This is not a picture where humans are replaced by machines. This evolution of work will require a lot more technically skilled people than there are today,” he says, arguing that companies need to play a key role in providing people with these skills, while considerable enhancing diversity in the process.

“Imagine a public-private-academia partnership that trains all the engineers, all the scientists and all the technicians necessary to make that a reality, and imagine creating a more equitable access to those jobs with the programmes are created,” he says.

“With diversity as a foundational concept, rather than something we have to catch up with later, we can do that if we choose to.”

For this to happen, however, he stresses that companies must get involved.

“There is no doubt that we’re living in challenging times, and the last few months have been unprecedented. At times the situation may have seemed hopeless. But I believe there is a bright, technology-driven future ahead of us, where we can create new prosperity and bring more people along as we do,” he says.

“But this won’t happen on its own. And I urge you to think about how your company can contribute.”

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