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September 3, 2019

Prioritize digital skills to drive global development: Doreen Bogdan-Martin

By Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau

By 2030 there will be an estimated two billion young people seeking opportunities for a bright future. If we give these young people the right skills, they will each have the chance to reach their full potential – and their personal success can begin to translate into sustained economic success for their local economies.

Education is the tool that empowers us all. Building digital skills and leveraging young people’s natural affinity with technology is a powerful way to help nations around the world grow and strengthen their economic base and become more competitive in today’s globalized markets.

Right now, however, we know that investments in building digital skills are falling far short of needs. Even in the world’s wealthy nations, millions of students still aren’t getting access to technology in the classroom and at home.

In the developing world, access is even more limited. Without digital skills, these young people are being left behind in a world that grows ever more digital by the day.

Empowering populations with digital skills and literacy is also vitally important to connecting the remaining half the world’s population that is still offline. Digital skills generate demand for the Internet, and drive deployment of broadband. And new ITU research confirms that higher broadband penetration translates into a boost for GDP, particularly in developing countries.

In ITU’s new edition of Digital Skills Insights (formerly Capacity Building in a Changing ICT Environment), we bring together the latest information and perspectives in the fast-growing field of digital learning and skills development.

Conceived as an overview of the state-of-play around different aspects of digital training, the 2019 edition features eight articles from international experts, looking at digital literacy frameworks, new methods of teaching and learning, and new capacity building concepts and initiatives adapted to the digital age.

Our experts also showcase concrete examples of the impact of new technologies on skills gaps and skills enhancement in selected developing countries.

This year’s report raises key questions on how human capacity can be matched to, or augmented by, machine capability to deliver increased social impact; how emerging technologies can be combined to create more meaningful and effective training programmes; and how the demand for different types of skills will be affected by automation and digital transformation.

“I hope … that governments will find new ways to work more effectively with the private sector to build the digital skills their young people need to succeed.”

The report illustrates how developments in automation and artificial intelligence have prompted the education sector to re-evaluate the importance of ethics, and the importance of working together to actively shape, govern and regulate technology to better serve human needs. It also underlines the growing need for new academic qualifications in emerging technology fields, such as the Internet of Things, and proposes practical solutions for the design of such curricula.

Our authors draw some thought-provoking conclusions, such as the need to think more critically about the human context of current technological challenges, and the new opportunities presented by a growing global community of young ‘digital natives’ that could be better harnessed to drive the agenda for digital skills development.

Digital Skills Insights is available freely to download via the ITU Academy portal.

As a constructive contribution to ongoing discussions among ITU membership on how best to address future demand for digitally skilled citizens, I hope it encourages policy-makers to push digital skills training to the top of the education agenda, and that governments will find new ways to work more effectively with the private sector to build the digital skills their young people need to succeed, and, through succeeding, to drive global development.

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Prioritize digital skills to drive global development: Doreen Bogdan-Martin

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