Firms must critically re-examine digital skills in a new world order

Covid-19 has accelerated the pace of technology and elevated the need for employees to have digital skills.

Virtual meetings on Microsoft Teams or Skype are now more common than face-to-face meetings. Schools and universities have switched to virtual classes. Social apps now hold virtual parties and concerts.

According to global research firm Gartner, response to the pandemic has improved digital adoption by five years.

One result of this “digitalisation at scale and velocity,” explains Gartner, is massive skill shifts. While the shift in skill needs was already a challenge, Gartner executives’ polls have shown that more than 58 per cent of the workforce have noted skill transformations since the onset of the pandemic.

But even with these changes, the nature of work has been changing with the advance in technology. Starting with the steam engine and the rise of industrial manufacturing, successive technological innovations have provided new capabilities, tools and power to make work efficient and productive.

These disruptions are happening 10 times faster and at 300 times the scale of the first industrial revolution in what is dubbed the fourth industrial revolution.

This, coupled with the skills shift, requires businesses to respond rapidly.

In Africa, in less than three decades, the continent has witnessed huge growth in ICT, with more internet connectivity, digital capability, and more innovation. In a recent briefing, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella noted that “we’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months. African has expanded technological applications, changing the way communities bank, farm and even access healthcare.

Intelligent edge

As a way of building Africa’s talent for the digital age, major stakeholders such as Microsoft have partnered with local varsities to create a modern intelligent edge and cloud curriculum that is unique to the continent.

We have for instance provided an opportunity, through our Africa Development Centre (ADC), for graduates to build a relevant and meaningful career in data science, artificial intelligence, mixed reality, application development and many more. We desire to recruit talents across Africa that will build innovative solutions for the global impact.

This also creates opportunities for engineers to do meaningful work from their home countries.

This year, we are launching the Game of Learners programme - a virtual hackathon aimed at spurring innovation among university students across the country.

The virtual initiative is aimed at empowering the students to develop solutions that can help address some of Africa’s and global challenges.

As we adapt to the new norm, ADC is working to ensure practical skilling needs identified that can be accessed by our students through virtual tools.

Recently, we announced a new global skills initiative aimed at bringing more digital skills to 25 million people globally by the end of the year.

Expanded access to digital skills is key in accelerating economic recovery, especially for people hardest hit by job losses.

The initiative offers free access to learning and content to help people develop skills in these positions. Firms bet on digital technology to help humans do more innovative work.

-The writer is managing director, African Development Centre?

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