Society’s Widening Digital Divide

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The Effects Of New Technology And The Digital Divide

Today, technology is advancing at unprecedented rates and no end seems to be in sight. Arguably, the greatest implications are being brought about by new and emerging technologies. A recent analysis of seventeen of those emerging technologies put the projected economic growth just short of 7 trillion USD market in 2025. That figure is greater than the gross domestic product (GDP) of most countries! While many focus on the financial implications of this period of technological advancement, a much heavier impact will be felt across society. Globally, the implications will likely increase the digital divide that currently exists. Countries with the required resources will take advantage of the new and unique opportunities these new technologies bring. The lesser along, and those not as advanced countries, are likely to see this as another setback and a stumbling block in their efforts to advance their current way of living and social status.

Just recently, the BBC published an article warning that automation will “take 800 million jobs by 2030.” They are not the only ones uttering figures like this. Most of those job losses will be felt by the common worker, your everyday individual. Who is preparing today’s workforce for a job change like that? Another question is: Who is preparing the generation of today to fill the job needs of society in the next few years? An equally important question is: Who is preparing the coming generation to be the workforce of the future? It is time to re-examine the age of the content in the materials being used throughout the education environment. I checked the copyright on a current textbook used in a technology program. It entered the marketplace nearly 3 years ago. Now add to that, the time to research the topic, write it, edit it, copyright it, produce it, sell it, and get it into the classroom. With all of that, it has to be concerning when you think about the age of the content in that book. This is especially the case given the pace of technological advancement taking place today.

Reskilling/Upskilling Is The Answer To This Issue

There are multiple countries around the world that have entered the race to lead the technology revolution being created by multiple technologies that are just entering the marketplace. It is important to recognize that race is heating up! Leading countries include Australia, China, Germany, Netherlands, Singapore, South Korea, Turkey, and the United States. Additional technologies appear to be advancing and will move into the new and emerging technology category very soon. With all of this taking place within the next few years, one has to wonder just how prepared we are for the magnitude of change that is likely to accompany the massive technology infusion and the disruption that will follow. This will undoubtedly increase the digital divide in our society.

Adapting to a change such as that brought about by this technology infusion is not an easy task to be sure. It requires changes to our curriculum throughout our educational system. However, the work to adapt to this degree of change does not stop there. Many in the current workforce must be reskilled. While these are both significant challenges, there is another aspect to all of this. There will be a number of businesses and organizations that will not likely survive and cease operations as a result of the disruption these technologies bring with them. The sum of all of this equals disruptive change throughout the next several years and across numerous industries.

The social implications of a disruptive change such as the one that appears to be ahead of us demand actions at senior levels of business, education, government, and industry. Failure for boards, executives, and senior leaders to prepare is inexcusable and likely “un-survivable” by most. Planning to take action and reskill the global workforce in preparation for this disruptive technology revolution must begin now. It must be addressed throughout society as well as the uppermost levels of government in every country around the world. Encouraging the proactive adaptation to what awaits all of us is essential. Many elements in this generation of emerging technologies have moved beyond the research stage and they are in the product/service development stage of evolution. This positions them one step away from moving on to the global market. That opens the door for their actual impactful, operational use throughout society.

Some elements of the current educational subject matter will be disrupted. Now is the time to partner and work with tomorrow’s agents of change to develop the courseware for the workforce in the next decade and beyond. It is in their best interest to do this. After all, they need a properly skilled workforce for their organization to be successful. The workforce of today needs the output of these efforts in order to adapt to the disruptive change that is on the threshold of occurring.

Communicating your strategy supporting the current workforce as well as tomorrow’s workforce must include your approach and efforts to move ahead and support this decade’s technological change, and its implications will go a long way. It will likely reduce resistance due to fear of the future as well as mistrust. It will also address the lack of confidence by some of those in or entering the workforce. It is essential that you clearly communicate what is driving the change and highlight why the change is necessary. Even with that, a subset of the workforce will begin “their strategy” once your communication of change takes place. This could include changing positions within the organization, moving to another company (possibly a competitor), or leaving the workforce and retiring. Given the current shortage of properly skilled resources, if not handled correctly could be devastating.

Conclusion

Acting to narrow the societal digital divide is not an option. There is too much at stake here and the result will impact society overall. Continuous infusion of relevant content to the courseware that is being used is the stop-gap measure for today. Further analysis and a new approach to educational development and delivery lifecycle is likely the only long-term solution. This is especially true given these issues and challenges are likely to get worse for at least the next decade.

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