Over the last three decades, the smartphone seems to have shrunk not in size but in reach. We are one second away from connecting to any corner of the globe. Though some places have no access to either telephony or the internet, they are now the exception to the norm. The increase in connectivity has largely been driven by the shrinking size of communication devises and the advent of the Information Age.
A decade ago this devises were a novelty for the few, this was especially true in sub-Saharan Africa with both hardware companies and mobile operators still grappling to deploy the support infrastructure. At the time owning a mobile devise let alone a computer was a reserve for corporates. Computer literacy was perceived as an advantage in the work place and a near guarantee of employment.
Fast forward to date and the world seems to have rapidly adopted various devices moving from novelty to novelty spurring innovation and creating a whole new range of devices. It is this rapid and seemingly unimpeded pace of progress that has set the world on an unlikely path. Today’s workforce is experiencing an unprecedented level of disruption with most sectors struggling to cope with and adopt to new technological efficiencies.
From today’s prism the future of the human workforce looks rather bleak with each major industries requiring a smaller workforce. However for all the disruptions caused by technology more opportunities are born out of the need to maintain and constantly innovate newer technologies.
While most people seem to be focused on retraining of the existing workforce pioneering concepts such as lifelong learning, governments need to shift focus towards revamping the education system to prepare the next generation for a rapidly changing work environment. Digital literacy needs to take centre stage within the learning environment.
This is especially true within Sub-Saharan Africa where governments are still grappling with affording access to universal education. Though on the surface the region appears to be at a disadvantage, technological innovation can help the region leapfrog the rest of the world.
It is often more difficult to repurpose existing education systems to new methods of learning, the education infrastructure and curriculum gap in Sub Saharan Africa can easily be bridged through concepts such as Individualized Learning and E-Learning by creating connection hubs where students can access learning through preinstalled devices.
To achieve this manufacturers of devices will have to work towards making them more affordable and accessible. Governments also need to open up the education system to more private sector participation through concepts such as equipment leasing. To their credit most Sub-Saharan Countries have increase investment in Technical and Vocational Training Institutes (TVET).
In the meantime device manufacturers are already playing their role in equipping the next generation with skills through their CSR initiatives that have created Electronic Classrooms to support the development of key skills required to fabricate new products.
Electronics Manufacturer LG has already began to tap into the existing educational frameworks within Sub Saharan Africa offering technical support to TVET institutions in Ethiopia. To have a wider impact, such initiatives should be scaled up across the continent to ensure that the next generation of scholars can contend with technological disruption.