The impending COVID-19 recession and the pandemic-influenced shift towards increased automation constitute a “Double Disruption”. But the challenges of disruption are a window of opportunity to accelerate the twin transitions to a green and digitalized economy. What intertwines these twin transitions is the imperative to upskill and future-proof the workforce by focusing on a People-Plan anchored in committed upskilling investments, Agile Government, and Policy Levers.

The People-Plan must equip workers with the right levels of skills attuned to the jobs of the future. On the supply side, governments must prioritize funding for upskilling and building out a new ecology of lifelong learning. On the demand side, governments must support private sector investment in green technologies and digitized infrastructure. This will guarantee a rich receptacle of innovations and new technologies ready to capture the new upskilled workers.

Agile government requires a radical departure from only permanent employment to digital labour, ecosystem partners, gig workers, micro workers and crowd workers.  The benefactors will include the economy, the environment and sustainable-jobs. The Policy Levers must be built through people participation, guided by experts using a smart specialization search for entrepreneurial prospects, and strengthening existing ecosystems. Different sectors of the economy must establish ideographic key performance indicators. For example, smart cocoa estates can deploy sensors for precision farming.

There is no nomothetic metanarrative. Each sector must have its own digitalization plans monitored by an Industry Advisory Board.  The teams will measure the quality of the ecosystem and then prescribe Policy Levers. Upskilling then calibrates the workforce with the future of work. Political and economic inertia is likely to exacerbate the impact of the COVID-19 recession and the pervasive impact of automation technologies, techniques and processes that have improved the efficiency, resilience and reliability of many tasks that now remain only partially chained to tomes in bureaucracies, service commissions and ministries.

If convenience is the barometer by which decisions are made, then how entrepreneurs think about where they go physically and digitally will start to change. Farmers’ entrepreneurial orientation on agricultural innovations at farmers’ markets show tremendous self-directed upskilling. Caribbean Kimchi is a cultural-fusion of Korean peppers, Himalayan salt, turmeric, ginger and local pak choi. Another crofter sells soursop, vacuum sealed soursop pulp, and desiccated soursop leaves. Export is their aim as supermarkets maintain import channels using foreign supply chains. Despite a domestic 7% levy on online purchases from overseas purveyors like Amazon, artificial intelligence at Amazon pinpoints Trinidad and Tobago as one of 85 new countries accepted by Amazon to register for selling on Amazon.

Local entrepreneurs must now prepare to package “Automated Products” that carry commercial barcodes including GSI Barcodes obtainable at, private labels, world class product photography, internationally accepted food and drug testing reports, multilingual labelling, signup for Seller Central, Amazon Pay and engage Amazon approved freight forwarders where warehouse robots sort automated-merchandise. At Amazon Fresh and Amazon Go Grocery, citizens elsewhere are already experiencing shopping using the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning.

Upskilling has been accelerated by the entrenched impacts of SARS-CoV-2 on markets, jobs and labour. The effects of the pandemic have been unequal and young workers, women and lower spectrum workforces have been affected the greatest. Upskilling and retraining are important if we plan to future-proof the CSME. The global appetite to “build back better” suggests that the economic and social benefits of closing the skills gaps are material and noteworthy, especially for resource rich economies like Guyana. In the Middle East, countries are showing increasing risks of job losses from decarbonisation projects but are not yet displaying the likelihood of new jobs in the green or digital economies.

A new Green Dutch Disease will emerge in economies that rely on natural resources and fossil fuels if they do not invest in new technologies that create jobs in the new green and digitalized space. Building back better is the “great-reset” but it is not a re-erecting of what collapsed during the pandemic. It is about creating a safety net for the transition from the old jobs to the new ones and the ones which remain unknown and are yet to be defined. It requires building pilot programmes and creating sandboxes for companies to unmask barriers to efficiency and digital effectiveness.

Rigorous discussions about creative disruptions, artificial intelligence in policy circles, algorithms, financial technologies, the skills gap and rapid technological change are now quite ordinary. But these sometimes disconnected discussions impact the capacity of companies and countries to develop coherent Evidence-Based Policies.  Policy making needs the right evidence and the right tools.

The double disruption provides the ideal window of opportunity to reskill and upskill the workforce in a market reconfigured by automation and recession. The Carbis Bay G7 Summit Communiqué committed flat world nations to transition to greener and more digitalized economies. What this means is that our concerns must not only be on reopening schools and universities but on adopting a Life Long Paradigm of Always Learning. It is about “Making it Normal” for different segments of the jobs market and different demographics of the population to be Always Learning, Upskilling, and Training.