Economic Progress

How can we develop the digital skills of tomorrow?

Rain Newton-Smith
Chief Executive, Confederation of British Industry (CBI)
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Economic Progress

Technology is transforming the way we learn and our ability to share information, leading to a so-called “new knowledge economy”. The Internet, cloud computing and the lower cost of data storage means that information can be shared cheaply or at virtually no cost with millions of people. Open access knowledge databases are becoming the norm.

But wider access to information is not enough. We need to use the technology to its best advantage, especially when it comes to education. In many parts of the world, education is not providing young people with the skills they need to find a job, while the weakness of global growth means that there are fewer jobs to find. In Spain, Greece and Egypt, for example, over 50% of young people looking for work cannot find a job. In the Eurozone, 1 in 4 young people under 25 are unemployed.

We need to ensure that all children have access to education and can use technology to further their skills. Without the right skills to harness this technology, the ability to address global inequalities will be lost. As the world gets more complex, businesses and societies need people who can adapt to technological change, embrace new opportunities and take risks as well as the tenacity to keep searching for new jobs and opportunities.

We also need to teach our children resilience, to learn from their own mistakes (and to pick themselves up when things go wrong) and from others. As the digital age allows us to share our experiences with communities around the world, we as entrepreneurs, parents, teachers and business leaders should share our biggest mistakes and what we learned from them.

We can also share what works. Cutting-edge academic journals, for example, have a mission to bring policy-relevant advice to as wide an audience as possible in an impactful way. There are parallels for business too. Are there products or know-how within your own company that could contribute to a wider social knowledge? Can this information be shared with the public in a meaningful way?

Businesses that contribute to how we as a society think and learn and can learn best from how others do things will be most sustainable and innovative. So will the next generation if they are given the right tools to use technology to overcome future challenges. That is our duty.

Rain Newton-Smith is Head of Emerging Markets at Oxford Economics. She is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.

Image: A man takes a picture of an artwork by British graffiti artist Banksy in New York. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

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