For the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), the potential economic benefits of digitization are great: up to €200 billion in additional GDP by 2025. This economic boost would lead to greater global competitiveness and prosperity for the region’s 100 million people. While the digital transition also harbors potential risks in the form of shifts in society, public and private-sector leaders can take effective actions to mitigate them whilst pursuing the digital opportunity.
Increased global connectivity, exponential advances in processing power, the flow and accumulation of data, and rapidly dropping price points are fueling technological innovation at a speed and scale we have not seen before. In the past, economies have benefited from technology change. But these shifts occurred over decades. Today, the cumulative effect of technology is accelerating progress exponentially. Internet penetration, mobile phones and data availability have skyrocketed, facilitated by the rapidly dropping cost of hardware.
Robots, artificial intelligence, automation – no longer the stuff of science fiction movies. Overwhelming evidence shows the shift in what the workforce needs is already underway and that it will continue to grow much larger in the future. All around the world, leaders from government and industry debate the future of work and the changes brought by technology and automation. Despite this, the world is not reacting fast enough to update our system of education.
According to analysis of 750 occupations by the McKinsey Global Institute, 51% of job activities are highly susceptible to automation – and that’s through adapting currently demonstrated technology alone. It’s also important to note that these activities span jobs across industries as well as skill and wage levels. This indicates that automation is much less likely to lead to the mass unemployment predicted by alarmists but is almost certainly going to necessitate the redefinition of most occupations and requisite skills.
To prepare all students with the creative, collaborative and digital problem-solving skills of the future, schools must teach computer science as part of the core curriculum. Computer science is not just about coding. It is also about computational thinking, interface design, data analysis, machine learning, cybersecurity, networking and robotics. Learning computer science encourages creativity, problem-solving, ethics and collaboration – skills which aren’t just important for technical careers in the developed world, but valuable for every career in all economies. What’s more, in a study of how students felt about their classes, computer science and engineering trailed only the arts in terms of classes they liked the most.
Education leaders should discuss removing aspects of the curriculum of 1918 to make room for the curriculum of 2018. Computer science shouldn’t be relegated to after-school clubs, robotics contests or hackathons. It shouldn’t be accessible only at a premium but taught as part of the primary and secondary school day, accessible to all students.