The title of this piece was coined after witnessing, how organisations like Huawei are tilling the ground for their sustained profitability and impact in an era driven by digital technology and entangled with uncertainties. If we need evidence to sink in how the cocktail of digital technology and uncertainty can bedevil the world, the global Corona Virus Pandemic that lassoed the year 2020 is our immediate reference.
The pandemic indicated that we might never be prepared enough for the unknown. If for nothing at all, we witnessed that nations and institutions which had an excellent digital ground game were better able to deal with the pandemic and assuage to some extent its potentially devastating effects especially from the point of view of business continuity. Notwithstanding, unless the people in an environment are digital-ready, a digital ground game heavily centred around hard infrastructure may see their orange lights blinking like an empty fuel tank signal before it makes it to the middle of the journey of business continuity in uncertain times. Ability to deal with uncertain situations, especially ensuring business continuity is one of the critical reasons why organisations should take their digital strategy seriously and way beyond their internal structures.
Huawei is one company that is seeing beyond their internal dynamics and has become more extrovert about their digital intentions and incursions. With their Seeds for the Future programme, they make a near-indelible mark through this visible and concrete intervention to prepare the future generation to thrive in the all-digital world that we are about embracing. In this world, we have no option to opt-out.
In October, Huawei exemplified the qualities of a far-thinking organisation when it embarked on another edition of its Global Flagship Programme, Seeds for the Future. The Seeds for the Future programme is a scholarship initiative that aims to develop local ICT talents, promote technology transfer and improve cross-regional development and participation in the digital economy. Through this programme, Huawei provides young people all over the world including Ghanaians excellent mentoring, coaching, training and talent development opportunities to enable them to evolve into valuable citizens of their generation using the digital tools available to them. These opportunities should be available in abundance for our younger generation to prepare them to solve the emerging challenges of the developing digital world. This is a clarion call to the corporate communities to emulate Huawei and fully embrace the natural transition from the traditional ways of getting around human activities to the digital paradigm. The Government can stimulate corporate action by incentivising the business community to take positive action.
Why should the nurturing of the young generation to better assimilate the upcoming digital reality matter?
We live in a time of technological realism that showcasing unprecedented pace, scope and depth in terms of how it is impacting humanity. There is an almost universal-concurrence that Technological progress is revolutionising how we work, learn, entertain, and live, among others. Harnessing that progress is the surest path for society and people to develop and sustain economic development and enhanced livelihoods.
To prepare for the future, we need to consider who the pioneers of tomorrow are, what existing abilities they have been able to build and what they lack in today’s modern world. We need to objectively examine areas that are either failing to grow or are set back in the digital transition and plan to address the identified gaps.
In most areas, the future of science and technology depends on education and the tooling support of the younger generation. In an article written by the G-Science Academies, science was defined as a human effort motivated by an intuitive ability to achieve a greater knowledge of the workings of nature and to satisfy human needs. Throughout history, scientists have continually expanded our understanding of the environment, and their discoveries and developments have vastly changed social conditions and living standards across the globe.
We now heavily rely on the science-based discovery, technology, and policies, whether in information systems, energy, disease control or precision manufacturing. Thus, nurturing future generations of scientists is vital for the development of society.
How do we help develop and inspire new generations of future leaders and innovators? Some of our first efforts should be to boost education and career paths in science and technology. Primarily, we need to promote scientific values in our society and set the mindset of our people to adopt a scientific approach to solving problems while hammering on the importance of creating career opportunities in science and technology for women, the vulnerable such as people living with disabilities and scientists across the country. Being part of the global dynamic how these critical challenges are tackled will have a significant local effect on the development of science, technology and creativity in modern Ghana and Africa in general.
In this digital age, many emerging technologies need to be explored and developed to fully adapt to this transition. Additionally, there are specific skills that we need to improve to ensure that the future generation is indeed readied and fully equipped to play ball in the to-be-fully-formed science-laden digital economy of the future we are presently encountering.
At the core, the new generation has to have fundamental digital skills and be able to utilise computer programming to access and create useful digital assets that solve everyday problems. With the pervasion of the internet in our day-to-day activities, digital literacy comes in very handy to offer young people the foundational capacity to discover and add to knowledge on the world wide web. The ability to search for things online is very critical. The internet has many open knowledge and insights that are hidden in plain sight. These insights can be unlocked with the right digital searching skills while using search engines and query languages.
Essential in the set of skills required is numeracy and logic skills. Additionally, the generation going to steer the 360-degree digital economy will have to be curious, endowed with a penchant for finding out things and consequently deepen their capacity to research different areas. This is obvious when we consider the fact that the shaping of the digital economy and the need to create a smooth bridge to transition people from the old paradigm to the new paradigm has fostered a heightened demand for new baseline data and innovative discoveries that can serve as the walkway to delivering solutions and making decisions to better the lives of people.
Generic and fundamental skills that support emerging technology paradigm, such as literacy, necessary academic skills and basic financial and entrepreneurial skills, are also essential. The skill to critically think and deal with unstructured situations is very paramount too. Aside from advanced cognitive capabilities, such as STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), social and people skills and engagement abilities are also becoming significantly essential, as they are impossible for robots and machines to emulate. Inherent non-technical capabilities required by young people to surmount the challenges and leverage the opportunities the digital era poses include a range of mental, interpersonal and socio-emotional skills, empathy, imagination, curiosity, risk-taking, open-mindedness, critical reasoning, problem-solving, decision-making, emotional intelligence, negotiation and bargaining skills, internetworking and the ability to quickly develop new skills and adapt to new situations Having enumerated these capacity requirements, attention has to be given to nurturing and preparing the young generation to make them ready and capable of living and succeeding in the new digital economy.
So what can and should be done? We need all members of our society to play a role. From Government to Academia to Industry and everyday people, everybody has to clearly understand the challenges and opportunities that the digital paradigm poses and bring solutions to the table. We should seriously explore the rethinking of our education system including its policies, adjust existing programmes, rethink teaching methods and develop new education models to enable us to keep pace and surmount developments in the digital space.
Today’s companies must inculcate massive digital ambition, be creative and amenable to actively guiding the future generation to take advantage of the evolving digital reality fully. Grabbing the opportunities of tomorrow goes beyond spearheading technological Innovation within firms. It also has everything to do with presenting a whole new culture and mindset to the generations who will form the majority group when digitalisation comes full circle in social and economic spaces. Organisational rebasing of how they perceive human development and profitability should be a todo on the task list of corporates. This is the time corporates have to build internship, mentorship and people development models that transform the mindset, attitudes and capabilities of their stakeholders, especially the young generation in and outside their organisations.
I have seen this work in real life as former CEO, of DreamOval limited, where I started the DreamOval Foundation to pursue the development of people who would possess the requisite digital skills and literacy for the future digital economy back in the day. At the time, we used internships of university students, coding skills training, and digital skills training of teachers and young girls through programmes like iTeach, Femiti and Africa Code Week. During the period I was at DreamOval, I oversaw the training of over three hundred thousand students and teachers over a 9-year horizon through the Foundation. These initiatives were done with the concrete support and collaboration of other corporate bodies.
Moving beyond talk, like Huawei, Corporations must set in motion internal policies, systems, programmes and collaborations that have organisational leadership buy-in and resourcing. Organisations should jump on the opportunity to create avenues for younger generations to share ideas and exhibit their talent and skills in a conducive environment. The young generation should be given structured platforms such as mentoring, on-the-job training, tooling, internal competitions, entrepreneurship duties, people skills, research grants and resources to unravel and amplify their potential. The mentoring component is essential for the complete honing of people who can function optimally in a very often ambiguous yet fast-paced digital environment. The ground is fertile, for planting the seeds for the future. Let’s get to work.