Address by Dr Victoria Lindsay, British Council Country Director for Iraq, to the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC)‘s International Tech Conference in Baghdad:
The fourth Industrial Revolution underway and it is technology changing the world and the way we live.
Globalization means it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore developments such as automation, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, mobile and cloud technology and the Internet of things; E-commerce is changing banking and shopping habits creating an increasingly globalized economy.
So far too little attention has been paid to the implementation of e-commence and the impact of this seismic shift on education and the educational infrastructure required to support e-commerce growth.
Skills and Education Disruption and Digital Literacy
The rapid changes described above are leading to skills disruption; a change in the nature of jobs available, and the work that people can undertake. This evolving need is driving a demand for new and adaptable skill sets. Alongside of this the nature of learning is also changing; no longer are students required to learn by rote instead they need to be able to locate, evaluate and use information. Education at all levels needs to change to support this shifting landscape.
These changes in education can be divided into three areas:
- Firstly, those who study computer science education: the computer science graduates and professionals who are required to develop and maintain e-commerce and other systems;
- Secondly e-commerce education itself: entrepreneurs and businessmen and women who need to understand how e- commerce and the online environment works;
- Thirdly, the users who will require sufficient levels of digital literacy to be able to use online platforms and trust e-commerce and services become increasingly available online.
Digital literacy has been defined by organisations such as the Global Digital Literacy Council and can be evidenced by certificates such as the IC3 Global Standard; however, considering more fully and at individual level, digital literacy is a skill set that is more advanced than certification. Being sufficiently digitally literate to interact with an online world is beyond the ability to use computer programmes such as Word for Windows. It includes the skills to access and judge the value of information; ability to identify fake news and to use a search engine to locate trusted information, advice and guidance.
Digital literacy also includes the proficiency to interact with others in a global world using devices for synchronous and asynchronous communication. Digital users are also required to have developed their social emotional skills in this new environment; what is described as cyber awareness, navigating a world with trolling, flashing and phishing.
Lastly, digitally literate users require photo visual skills, the ability to navigate and read sources such as websites and to have learnt basic motor skills to connect and navigate an ever increasing variety of changing devices.
Turning now to each of these diverse but related areas of education.
Now and in the future those studying computer education will be providing the technological support and expertise that will support domestic economic growth via IT advancement, software, infrastructure and devices. They require a rapid and responsive curriculum which focuses on underpinning knowledge as well current and potential future programming skills.
Key to success will be the development of skills which will allow further development and adaptation that will support future developments. Related to this but not explored here in detail is the need for wider-reaching skills and knowledge that support the e-environment; for example, legislation and international business.
The second area to consider is the implications for e-commerce education. A growth area will be short professional courses which will be delivered by commercial providers. Within formal education stand alone modules and extra curricular activity will develop to meet student demand. Longer term dedicated undergraduate and post graduate degrees will emerge.
These courses will provide students and attendees with sufficient knowledge to be able to make informed technical and marketing decisions relating to online business. Content might, for example, include the development of an e-catalog (product range), understanding of secure web servers and protocols, the development of a graphic user interface, underlying processing e-commerce engines and databases and communications management systems.
Finally, there is a need to consider the implications of a shift to e-commerce and e-society to digital literacy education. Users need to be able to use and understand mobile devices and the online environment. This could be achieved through a combination of formal education and informal learning through modeling innovators and early adopters.
Caution here is required when we think of younger generations, the so called Digital Natives — those considered, by their age or social demographic to be natural immersed in the online world. Research shows that these assumptions may be incorrect, and that although technologically familiar with devices, Generation Z struggles to evaluate and assess the validity of information.
It is also, at this point, worth highlighting those who will be left behind and the need to maintain a minimum level of service for those unable due to poor education (illiteracy), location (poor bandwidth) or social demographic (limited funds) who will be excluded from the digital revolution. Services and products whose services are essential to these customers should carefully consider a move into e-commerce to balance both current and future needs with social responsibility.
So, with regard to the next steps, the following recommendations can be made. The development of a Computing Education Plan to meet the technical needs, an E-commerce Education plan to meet the needs of innovators and entrepreneurs who will be in the vanguard of this shift change, and a digital literacy plan that raises users skills.