Category Archives: education

7 Digital skills are not optional in today’s tech savvy world (UNCTAD)

unctadNegative stereotypes about women and girls studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects are among the impediments to an inclusive world where hi-tech solutions solve global problems, the 21st session of the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development(CSTD), hosted by UNCTAD, heard at a meeting in Geneva on 15 May.

An all-woman panel discussed the theme of building digital competencies to benefit from existing and emerging technologies, with a special focus on gender and youth dimensions.

Recalling that women had played pivotal roles in the history of computing, Shirley Malcom, head of the directorate of education and human resources at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said it was “refreshing” to see the CSTD focus on issues of gender and youth in its deliberations.

Meanwhile, Helena Dalli, Malta’s European affairs and equality minister, said female role models were an important factor in promoting more women to take up STEM subjects and pursue careers in science and technology.

Profound changes for all

Speaking in a video message, the meeting also heard from Geraldine Byrne Nason, chair of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, on the importance of coordination between intergovernmental bodies.

To help guide the conversation, UNCTAD prepared a background report, steered by Shamika N. Sirimanne, director of UNCTAD’s, division on technology and logistics, and head of the CSTD Secretariat.

Setting out the issues

The remarkable technological progress the world has seen recently is transforming the fabric of our lives. The profound changes – driven by the spread of new information and communications technologies (ICTs) – will affect everyone’s life and every country’s economy.

For example, sensor devices deployed all over the world are improving agricultural productivity and making it possible to map and control epidemic outbreaks. And digital platforms are creating new job opportunities.

But Big Data can unfortunately also be used to influence democratic processes – as the world witnessed in recent elections in the United States and Europe – and automation means that certain jobs will no longer be available for humans.

“Opaque algorithms can ‘bake-in’ bias and exclusion,” Ms. Malcom said.

Whether the effects of technological change will be more positive than negative depends on the getting the right skills into the right people’s hands.

Miriam Nicado García, rector of Cuba’s University of Informatics Sciences (UCI), explained how her university was a new venture, begun in 2002, that aimed to tackle this problem for her country. Software produced in Cuba for health, education, legal and tourism applications was being made available free to other countries, she said.

A skills mismatch

Estimates show that already by 2020 90% of new jobs will require ICT skills. Yet more than one-third of workers in developed countries that are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) currently lack the digital know-how needed. And over half the population in these economies have no digital skills at all – with female employees usually being less tech savvy than their male counterparts.

“The more we let the gender divide grow, the more economic disparities will grow,” Ms. Dalli said when explaining the proactive measures Malta had taken, as a small island nation with few resources, to promote women in STEM fields.

In fact, technology in the workplace can affect women and men differently. ICT service jobs are normally well paid, but the share of women in such positions remains very low, especially in developing countries.

A recent survey among 13 major developed and emerging economies showed that female workers tend to hold low-growth or declining occupations, such as sales and administrative jobs.

Although women are less represented in sectors threatened by automation, such as manufacturing and construction, the report prepared by UNCTAD ahead of the event says that since there are few women in STEM job families, they may not be well placed in the economy to benefit from the increasing demand for workers with tech skills.

Such a mismatch between what businesses need and what job-seekers offer will slow economic growth significantly. What’s worse, portions of the population could become unemployable. And with unemployment levels already high in many parts of the world, such a situation would be devastating, not just for the individuals but also for their families and communities.

Getting the right skills in the hands of the workforce will be even more important in developing countries, where billions of young people will enter the job market in the coming decades.

In Africa alone, about 11 million young people will enter the labour market every year for the next decade. If governments don’t help equip new job seekers with the right skills, they may have to deal with rising youth unemployment.

However, according to Sophia Bekele, founder & CEO of DotConnectAfrica Group, whose works helps African women run tech start-ups, developing countries may have a competitive advantage over older, more developed markets.

“The global South has best opportunity to leapfrog in the digital economy instead of reinventing the wheel,” she said.

Four levels of digital competency

According to the UNCTAD report, four different levels of digital skills are needed during the journey from adopting new devices to creating new technologies.

“The most fundamental skill sets for individuals and companies in the digital era are capabilities to adopt new technologies,” the report says, adding that “digital literacy for all is a basic requirement for every citizen to participate fully in the digital society.”

So every country, no matter the stage of economic development, needs to have in place basic digital education and training programmes for all its citizens.

For people, being “digital literate” means being able to use the basic functions of common devices, such as a computer. For a business, it means “knowledge about ICT installations in the existing business system,” the report says.

But more and more professions, even beyond the ICT sector, require the ability to adapt and creatively use available technologies. And it is when a countries workforce can modify existing technology or design new systems and devices technologies that real value is added to the economy.

“To maximize the benefits of new technology, countries and companies in developing countries need to have the digital skills to introduce modifications to new technologies,” the report says. This is because advanced technologies are often designed for contexts – both technical and social – that differ from the realities of many developing economies, and therefore must be adapted to the local context, the report adds.

Adding a gender dimension to the issue of context, Ms. Malcom said that very often, time itself was a scarce commodity for women that policies designed to help them must reflect.

A moving target

Technology’s impact, however, extends well beyond the labour market, and being tech savvy has increasingly become important for enjoying a good quality of life in what has become and increasing digital world.

“With increasing numbers of software and applications being used to accomplish everyday communicational and informational tasks, basic knowledge of ICTs is now essential for citizens to solve everyday problems, as well as to engage in community activities,” the report says.

Digital skills are a multifaceted moving target. According to the report, six major drivers influence what technical competencies people need:

“Increasing globalization, extreme longevity, workplace automation, fast diffusion of sensors and data processing power, ICT-enabled communication tools and media, and the unprecedented reorganization of work driven by new technologies and social media, which are massively increasing collaboration opportunities.”

But the other, more specific digital competencies required will likely depend on the country’s economic specialization and industrial development.

For example, the report says, “Countries where the manufacturing sector dominates economic growth will require talents, experts and a workforce with specialized skills in industrial robotics, automation and the Internet of Things.”

While the skills that workers need to use technology increases, so does the list of the complementary soft skills necessary to perform in the digital economy.

Human skills in a robot’s world

But digital skills are not enough to adapt to changing labour markets demands. Paradoxically, as work becomes more automated, the unique human skills that cannot be easily replaced by machines become ever more important.

So building and strengthening skills such as complex problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity, will be essential to create the flexibility required for the current and future demands for the workplace, the report says.

The need for human creativity and innovation helps explain why professions like engineering and science are less at threatened by digitalization and computerization, the report says. Likewise, occupations that involve sophisticated communication skills will also be in a better position in the digital era.

“For example, natural language processing algorithms can detect emotions underlying text, but are often inaccurate in comprehending sarcasm, humour or irony,” the report says.

Finally, even if computers and robots could perform every task, economies would still rely on people to come up with the new businesses ideas. That’s why the report calls on governments to equip people with the digital entrepreneurship skills.

source: http://unctad.org 

Online Training Provider Simplilearn Passes One Million Learners’ Mark

Simplilearn LogoEdTech company, Simplilearn, a leading provider of online training courses for digital economy skills, announced today that it has reached a milestone of one million learners. Having recently celebrated its eighth anniversary in the online training business, Simplilearn has doubled its learner base in two years.

Several key factors have accelerated the business growth of Simplilearn, including the acquisition of digital marketing training provider, Market Motive in 2015 and the opening of two new offices in the United States, in San Francisco, California (2016) and Raleigh, North Carolina (2017). Additional boosts in subscribers came in 2016 when Microsoft named Simplilearn as a Silver Learning Partner for its suite of Microsoft Azure certification courses and Simplilearn became Google’s first authorized training partner (ATP) for Certified Android App Developer training. In April 2018, Simplilearn was awarded a General Service Administration (GSA) contract for online training, to offer a range of professional certification courses to employees of federal, state and local government agencies in the United States.

“I credit Simplilearn’s rapid growth to our continuous focus on providing outcome-based training geared towards course completions, certifications, client business goals and learners’ jobs achieved,” said Krishna Kumar, Founder & CEO, Simplilearn. “We’re grateful to all our subscribers and partners who have enabled us to reach this measurable landmark, because our success is simply a testament to our learners’ success.”

Simplilearn’s year-over-year growth is attributed to its unique blended learning model and its expansive course offerings in highly demanded roles across AI & Machine Learning, Big Data & Analytics, Cloud Computing, Cyber Security, Digital Marketing and more, all of which are continually updated by renowned experts and industry thought leaders. In addition to helping working professionals gain competitive marketplace skills, Simplilearn partners with leading global system integrators, enterprise companies in the consumer goods, banking, telecom industries along with many others, so both, companies and their employees can get the skills they need to thrive in today’s digital economy.

source: www.prnewswire.com

A New Economy for the Middle East and North Africa

menaDespite its geopolitical challenges, the economies of the Middle East and North Africa have vast untapped potential in their young, educated, and tech-savvy populations. If governments can implement the reforms needed to shift from public- to private-sector-led development, the region’s economies could become digital powerhouses.

Countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) possess all of the ingredients they need to leapfrog into the digital future. They have large, well-educated youth populations that have already adopted new digital and mobile technologies on a wide scale. That combination has immense potential to drive future growth and job creation. But will it?

Public spending, the region’s historical engine of development, has reached its limit. Because the public sector can no longer absorb the swelling ranks of university graduates, the MENA region now has one of the world’s highest rates of youth unemployment.

The digital economy holds the promise of a new way forward, but it is still in its infancy, and young people face obstacles in putting technology to productive use. Although the Internet and hand-held devices are ubiquitous throughout the region, they are currently used for accessing social media, rather than for launching new enterprises.

But there are green shoots emerging. For example, the ride-hailing app Careem has grown from a start-up to a billion-dollar company, creating thousands of jobs in more than 90 cities in the MENA region and in Pakistan and Turkey. And new digital platforms are already connecting job seekers and employers, providing vocational training, and hosting start-up incubators. The challenge now is to create the conditions for these green shoots to grow and multiply.

The first, essential step is for MENA countries to become “learning societies,” a phrase coined by the Nobel laureate economist Joseph E. Stiglitz to describe countries in which shared knowledge leads to increased innovation. This, in turn, fosters development; and in the case of MENA, it could lead to the creation of a vibrant digital service economy.

To get there, education systems will need to change. For the region’s young people, the curriculum is more often a source of frustration than advancement. The concept of a “skills premium” – the difference in wages between skilled and unskilled workers – dictates that higher educational attainment should lead to higher compensation and more secure employment. Yet in the MENA region, the opposite has happened: university graduates are far more likely to be unemployed than are workers with only a basic education.

Two factors work against the region’s young people. First, schools are still geared toward channeling graduates into large public sectors, which means they place less emphasis on fields such as mathematics and science. Second, bloated public sectors are crowding out the private sector, which would otherwise be a larger provider of high-skill, high-wage jobs.

Because the future economy will need technologically capable workers, curricula should be reoriented toward STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects and away from the social studies that were long prized by public-sector employers.

Moreover, education systems should focus on encouraging greater openness to innovation and risk-taking – a significant departure from the attitudes reproduced under a system of public-sector patronage. Specifically, moving toward an innovative “learning society” will require students to hone their critical-thinking and managerial skills within collaborative work arrangements.

In addition to skills, the digital economy will also need technical infrastructure. Connectivity is a prerequisite for the delivery of new mobile and digital services in e-commerce, vocational training, health care, and finance, all of which could substantially increase overall welfare. Countries in the region thus need to focus on expanding broadband Internet access.

Education and Internet infrastructure geared toward productive use would provide the foundation of a new economy. But ensuring sustained growth in the region will require improving its financial systems as well. A digital economy depends on payment systems that are not just easy to use and widely available, but also trustworthy. Developing effective peer-to-peer payments that require no financial intermediary like a bank will be crucial for ensuring that digital platforms for ride sharing, on-demand tasks, and other services can thrive.

Outside of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, which have relatively advanced payment systems, the quality of financial services in the MENA region currently lags behind most of the rest of the world. Barring improvements to the financial system, and to the banking sector in particular, the potential of the region’s vast human capital will not be realized.

Lastly, governments will need to develop an approach to regulation that encourages, rather than stifles, innovation. To be sure, ensuring confidence, especially in financial systems, is essential; but regulation must be balanced with policies to boost competition, so that start-ups can easily enter the market and test new ideas. There needs to be more space for more companies like Careem to emerge. Policymakers should look to Kenya’s model of light but effective regulation, which has fostered the rapid growth of the peer-to-peer payment system M-Pesa.

Seizing the opportunities that the digital economy offers the MENA region will require a big push. Policymakers will need to work on multiple fronts, while making the best use of all available tools. The sooner they start, the greater the chance that today’s young people can overcome economic exclusion and gain more opportunities to realize their – and their region’s – full potential.

source: www.project-syndicate.org

Alibaba brings focus on tech-based education curriculum

King-Mongkuts-Institute-of-Technology-Ladkrabang-CHINESE e-commerce giant Alibaba’s Bt11-billion promised investment in Thailand have prompted the country’s higher education institutes to step up their technology and related curriculum in preparation for a rising demand for digital skills.

Suchatchavee Suwansawas, rector of King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang, said Jack Ma’s larger presence here via the Alibaba e-commerce, payment, logistics, and tourism projects had further boosted Thai people’s awareness of digital technology, social media, e-commerce and related fields.

Universities in Thailand are now set to produce more graduates in digital technology, “big data” and artificial intelligence (AI), he said.

Ek Pattarathanakul, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Accountancy, said Thai enterprises needed to adapt and learn new things from the Alibaba projects in Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC). Another option would be to focus on specific and niche market segments to avoid direct competition with the giant e-commerce and related platforms, he said.

Saowaraj Ratanakamfu of the Thailand Development Research Institute said the biggest challenge in accommodating Alibaba’s investment projects in this country lay in the availability of workers with digital and related skills. This takes on increased importance with Thailand serving as a regional hub for the Chinese giant.

At present, Thailand has more than 427 bachelor’s degree programmes that include digital and related subjects, with a combined capacity to produce over 26,000 graduates in these fields per year. Yet the quality of graduates is not yet sufficiently high in terms of meeting the labour market’s requirement.

All programmes and curriculum need to be updated frequently because technology changes rapidly, Saowaraj said, adding that the country also needed to add value to existing investments in the digital economy to stay competitive. She cited Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan as examples that leverage disruptive technologies, artificial intelligence, big data and the Internet of Things

source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com

Vodafone launches world’s largest international future jobs programme to help up to 10 million young people find work

vodafone efVodafone announced the launch of a ground-breaking international future jobs programme “W?”  to provide career guidance and access to training content in the digital economy for up to 10 million young people across 18 countries.The Vodafone digital skills and jobs initiative is the largest of its kind in the world.

In parallel, Vodafone also announced plans for a significant increase in the number of young people brought into the company to gain direct experience of the digital workplace. Vodafone will expand its existing graduate, apprenticeship, internship and work experience schemes worldwide to reach a total of up to 100,000 young people by 2022.

The two initiatives were announced as Vodafone published the results of a major international public opinion survey revealing the extent to which young adults aged 18-24 believe they are ill-equipped to participate in the digital economy despite being the first generation to be “born digital”.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that more than 200 million young people are either unemployed or have a job but live in poverty. In many of the countries in which Vodafone operates, youth unemployment is at record levels, from 38% in Italy and 39% in Spain to 47% in Greece and 53% in South Africa. Previous studies have found that a prolonged period of unemployment shortly after a young person leaves education to enter the workforce can have a lifelong negative effect on individual confidence, self-esteem and wellbeing.

Paradoxically, unemployment among young people is rising just as businesses of all types and sizes are struggling to fill a wide range of digital technology roles that are critical for future growth. The European Commission estimates that around 500,000 digital jobs across the European Union will remain unfilled by 2020.

Getting young people into work

Over the last year, Vodafone has worked with specialist psychologists, careers advisers and training providers to develop a smartphone-based service – called the Future Jobs Finder  that offers young people a simple but comprehensive gateway to new skills and opportunities for employment in the digital economy.

The first step in the Future Jobs Finder is a series of quick psychometric tests designed to identify each individual’s aptitudes and interests and then map these to the most appropriate job category in the digital economy. In the second step, the individual is directed to specific job opportunities in their chosen location, including opportunities with Vodafone. Users can also access relevant online digital skills training providers, with many of these courses available for free. On completing the tests, users also receive a summary of their skills and interests that can be used on their C.V. or in a job application.

Unsupported and uncertain: young people and the digital economy

Vodafone commissioned YouGov to ask 6,000 18-24 year olds in 15 countries for their views on their future career aspirations and concerns. The findings from the Vodafone-YouGov The State of iGen research include:

  • more than two-thirds (67%) of young people interviewed said they had received insufficient or no careers advice at any point in their education or since leaving school or university;
  • of those who had received careers advice during their time in education, just 15% said the careers advice they had received included more future-focused digital jobs, 38% felt the advice they had received was focused purely on traditional non-digital roles and 22% said the careers advice they received was ‘out-of-date’;
  • more than half (56%) believe the greatest struggle for their generation is to find any  kind of well-paid permanent job, a proportion rising to 64% among young women; and
  • more than one-fifth (23%) appear to have lost all confidence, and worry they do not have the skills to take on any role, no matter how basic.

The full The State of iGen research – including a country-by-country breakdown and additional statistics – can be found at: https://yougov.co.uk/find-solutions/omnibus/international/vodafone-study-igen/.

source: Vodafone