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Skills and Knowledge: An Imperative for Lifelong Learning in the Digital Age

January 15, 2018 • BUSINESS & INNOVATION, Digital Transformation, Strategies for the Changing World

By Bitange Ndemo

Today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world requires societies to adopt a culture of life-long learning. There is much the countries of the Global South can do to close the technology gap between them and the Global North, and capitalise on the many opportunities to empower people to be fit and ready for our future economies.

 

 “The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.” – Brian Herbert

 

Introduction

Never in the history of mankind has lifelong learning been such an imperative to sustain economic growth as it is in today’s digital age. The pace of technological change, at least since the invention of the Internet, has been phenomenal and few studies have attempted to capture its disruptive path and how best to adapt to it.

In the past, inventions took much longer to become obsolete. It took more than a century to imagine the demise of the internal combustion engine. Similarly, a child who was born at the dawn of the twenty-first century could hardly identify a rotary phone, which was a common household item barely two decades ago.

In 1965, Intel Co-Founder Gordon Moore predicted that the number of components per integrated circuit would double every 18 to 24 months for at least two decades. To date, this prediction has remained true far beyond the two decades he predicted. These types of improvements have disrupted industries. For example, in a short period of time, digital cameras replaced the film cameras that had been used for over a century. It is for this reason that digital advances are strongly linked to Moore’s prediction, including: quality-adjusted microprocessors,2 sensors, memory capacity, and even the number and size of pixels in digital cameras.3

Jobs have also been disrupted. The World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Index Report 2016 notes that there are jobs today that did not exist 10 years ago. It predicts that at least “65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that aren’t on our radar yet”.4 Further, the report predicts that the “pace of change is only going to get faster”, owing to rapid advances in such technologies as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, machine learning, the Internet of Things, sensor technologies, and more.

 
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About the Author

Bitange Ndemo is an Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Nairobi’s Business School. Prof. Ndemo is an advisor and Board member to several organisations including Safaricom one of the leading telecommunication company in Africa, Mpesa Foundation, Research ICT Africa that is based in South Africa. He is a former Permanent Secretary of Kenya’s Ministry of Information and Communication where he was credited with facilitating many transformative ICT projects.

 

Notes

1. Herbert, Brian and Anderson, K. (2001). House Harkonnen. Spectra Books: New York.
2. Myhrvold, Nathan (June 7, 2006). “Moore’s Law Corollary: Pixel Power”. New York Times.
3. Byrne, David M.; Oliner, Stephen D.; Sichel, Daniel E. (March 2013). Is the Information Technology Revolution Over? Finance and Economics Discussion Series Divisions of Research & Statistics and Monetary Affairs Federal Reserve Board. Washington, D.C.
4. World Economic Forum Human Capital Index Report (June 2016) Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 1-2 June 2016.
5. Wald, P.J., and Castleberry, M.S. (2000). Educators as learners: Creating a professional learning community in your school. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
6. See for example Bell, S., (2010) Project-Based Learning for the 21st Century: Skills for the Future. Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, v83 n2 p39-43.
7. Kereluik, K., Mishra, P., Fahnoe C., and Terry, L., (2013) What Knowledge Is of Most Worth: Teacher Knowledge for 21st Century Learning. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education 29:4, 127-140, DOI: 10.1080/21532974.2013.10784716.
8. Ndemo, E B (2015) Political Entrepreneurialism: Reflections of a Civil Servant on the Role of Political Institutions in Technology Innovation and Diffusion in Kenya. Stability: International Journal of Security and Development 4(1):15, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5334/sta.fd.
9. Department of Education and Science (2000). Learning for Life: Paper on Adult Education. Dublin: Stationery Office.
10.World Economic Forum Human Capital Index Report (June 2016) Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 1-2 June 2016.
11. Stolterman, Erik; Croon Fors, Anna (2004). “Information Technology and the Good Life.” Information systems research: relevant theory and informed practice. p. 689.
12. See for example Ndemo, E B (2015) Political Entrepreneurialism: Reflections of a Civil Servant on the Role of Political Institutions in Technology Innovation and Diffusion in Kenya. Stability: International Journal of Security and Development 4(1):15, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5334/sta.fd.
13. David Miliband 2003 Speech Teaching in the 21st century.

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