Sage is invest in a ’BotCamp’ for 100 school leavers and millennials in the UK over the next six months. The initiative is one new element of Sage Foundation that was announced at Sage Summit this week.
Educating a new generation for the UK
Sage Foundation aims to build sustainable social, economic and entrepreneurial opportunities in local communities. This initiative aims to train 100 people with the technical skills in AI and related technology to help the UK take the lead in that technology. Sage are committed to the new program being inclusive and hopefully avoiding the mistakes of others. Martha Lane Fox, founder of lastminute.com spoke eloquently about how Apple failed miserably when producing their health app. By failing to allow for the female menstrual cycle, pregnancy or menopause it alienated half the population. Sage promises that its programme is designed to be inclusive and assist people to embrace the ‘4th industrial revolution’.
The program is not about training developers for Sage. This is why it is part of the Sage Foundation and philanthropic. Sage aims to donate 2% of its technology, 2% of its people’s time and 2% of free cash flow within Sage Foundation. Sage is hoping that its graduates will be the next creators of a bot technology that helps others. It highlights the issue in the UK of a lack of technical skills. It is something that the government and/or other corporates will need to address. With the bot creation tools available it is not difficult to start creating something worthwhile. It is more about the imagination of the individual programmer.
Kriti Sharma, VP of bots and AI commented: “Having piloted this programme with several school leavers, I believe it has the potential to completely change the mindsets of the young people who take part. We’re giving them the opportunity to believe that you don’t need a computer science degree to write code and create chatbots that will have a significant impact on the communities in which we live and work. And it’s not just about creating developers for Sage – we want to help bridge the digital skills gap we’re seeing in addition to bringing to the fore the next generation of bot creators who are going to solve social issues using their technical skills.”
Sage leading development in bots
Sage were one of the first to take a lead in developing an accounting bot. They hired Kriti Sharma, VP, Bots and AI at Sage. It was her team that developed Pegg, unveiled only last year. That team has been busy over the last year. Pegg has now rolled out to several Sage products and is in use every minute according to Sharma,
The latest iteration of Pegg was unveiled on the first day of Sage Summit by Sharma. Pegg demonstrated its ability to provide accountancy firms with an oversight of their clients current status. Using the natural language interface of Amazon’s Alexa it showed how bots can help accountants in the future. In my opinion it was more rules-based machine intelligence than true AI. It also demonstrated how bots will perform mundane tasks in the future. This is one reason why accountants need to evolve their businesses. That evolution will need accountants to become more advisory and troubleshooting as they help clients with new services.
Sage certainly believes that there is a future for bots as it looks to develop the sophistication of their own. Whether they ultimately help Sharma in her teams endeavours or create something themselves isn’t known. However, other corporations should take note and invest in technical training outside of the standard education system.
Stephen Kelly, CEO Sage commented: “As millennials are great adopters of bots, we are giving them the opportunity to code for their future peers, business builders, and industry leaders. Delivering this through the Sage Foundation will help us meet our commitment to benefit young people around the world, and to do good in the communities we serve.”
This is an interesting development by the Sage Foundation. Sharma is clearly confident about the success rate of the programme following the pilot. It will be interesting to see whether it is renewed or expanded next year.
Bots are here to stay and even in the accounting professions they are not vilified. A recent Sage survey discovered that 86% said that they are happy to make admin elements of their jobs invisible. This indicates that bots are now accepted as a time saver. There are still some concerns about bots and how they interact with people. Part of the programme is designed to raise awareness of these factors sympathetically.