Gen Y is here and set to embrace what is being called the ‘Fourth Industrial revolution’—essentially, the Digital age How often have you found yourself staring in amazement at the sight of a two-year old infant enthusiastically and passionately attack an iPad, effortlessly use the keys, and interface seamlessly with a game that you would be hard pressed to even comprehend? It is commonplace now to see children use computers, and expertly deal with smart devices, especially mobile phones, as though they were really born bearing them in their hands. And in a way, they have! Just as the generation that is now in its ‘50s was internalizing cycles and large phones with black dials, today’s generation is literally a community of Netizens—born to the Internet. Gen Y is here and set to embrace what is being called the ‘Fourth Industrial revolution’—essentially, the Digital age. What youngsters now find themselves in is a constant state of connectivity, where they are linked on an anytime, anywhere basis with anyone on the planet. They are also hooked on to smart machines and handling new media that are altering the way they will eventually live and work. The Digital Transformation that now envelops this generation, and extends across offices, factories and homes, requires several things of these young people who are on the cusp of an exciting future. It primarily needs them to have skills that they never possessed before—skills that equip them to handle automated systems and lead to higher human-machine partnership and co-dependence. According to a January 2016 study launched by the World Economic Forum, global citizens will need brand new skills and abilities to be productive contributors to economic growth in the future. Research shows that tomorrow’s citizens will require cognitive abilities, creativity, logical reasoning, problem sensitivity, mathematical reasoning and visualization. From basic skills, to content skills, to active learning, oral expression, reading, comprehension, written expression, process skills and above all ICT literacy. Abundant ICT skills are also the need of the hour for India’s growing IT industry, the spearhead of the country’s current exports led growth. The nation’s vibrant IT-BPM industry, which continues to be a major driver of the country’s GDP and generates millions of jobs every year, will always need people well versed in IT and with relevant Digital Transformation skills to fuel its momentum. Clearly then, IT knowledge and skills are of the essence. Also, and since children are in an IT bubble and IT lies at the core of everything they do, at home and beyond, they need to be equipped with IT know how. The fact is that these youngsters will one day go to offices that are completely automated and Digital. They will have to be completely conversant with everyday technology that defines the workplace. From knowing how to handle computers, smart devices, networking, communications and connectivity equipment and software at work, to optimally using office productivity tools, these citizens of the future world will have to be able to easily find their way around within the IT bubble. In order for this to happen, Gen Next will have to internalize IT and do it as early in their life cycles as they can. What this really means is that India’s primary, secondary and even higher education systems have to focus on IT, IT and more IT. They have to be ready with specialized IT curriculum and programs that are prepared in partnership with the tech and non-tech sectors (that actually do the hiring), and ready children and young people for what lies ahead. Learning now needs to be IT focused so that it promotes objectivity, creativity, both left and right side development and yes, tech prowess. IT then must be made a compulsory subject at the level of primary and secondary education, like other critical subjects like English, Math, the Sciences, Economics, Accounting, among others. Recognizing the importance of IT as a mainstream subject, India’s educational institutions will need to ensure that learners experience IT’s different facets across all levels. They should be able to relate this exposure to their experiences with technology, thus unleashing their creativity. Students will need to understand, assimilate and practice IT concepts, which will ensure that learning requirements for all types of students like visual, kinesthetic, tactile etc. are taken care of. Overall the aim will have to be to go beyond text books and provide learners with the skills that will shape their future careers. What will also be needed going forward will be end-to-end solutions that bring together all the key elements required by teachers, students and school and college managements for learning and managing IT. IT then must reach children quickly. By paying due attention to IT skills in school and college, the Indian education system will also be able to align itself to the government’s vision of Digital India. The Digital Transformation revolution will be spurred by those literally ‘Born to the Internet’. It is now time to ‘Digitally ready’ this generation.
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