Busi­ness, ed­u­ca­tion and dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion

CityPress - - Business - Jon Foster-Ped­ley, dean and di­rec­tor of Hen­ley Busi­ness School SA

The dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion world is upon us and it’s go­ing to take away a lot of tra­di­tional em­ploy­ment. It is go­ing to force us to think about the kind of fu­ture that we want to cre­ate for our chil­dren and our­selves, pro­vid­ing us with op­por­tu­ni­ties to change our lives in fun­da­men­tal ways.

It is dif­fi­cult to try to hold back the tide of dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion and glob­al­i­sa­tion be­cause coun­tries will slide into un­com­pet­i­tive­ness. You can’t hold the wa­ters back just by say­ing “I don’t like the in­con­ve­nience of dig­i­tal struc­tures chang­ing”. Be­fore long, other coun­tries will be bet­ter con­nected, have bet­ter ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion and cre­ate bet­ter busi­ness growth pro­cesses. And coun­tries that are not us­ing that, face the risk of slid­ing into obliv­ion and ir­rel­e­vance.

Coun­tries need to be build­ing their skills to be com­pet­i­tive. If they don’t, they will have a pop­u­la­tion that is un­der­e­d­u­cated and not geared for the chang­ing job mar­ket. What also hap­pens is that you will find that other peo­ple, es­pe­cially young peo­ple, will use dig­i­tal me­dia in a cre­ative and dis­rup­tive way in busi­ness, and so change how things are be­ing done.

We need to find al­ter­na­tive ways for peo­ple to put food on the ta­ble and en­joy a qual­ity life. With­out this, we are go­ing to face new forms of global crises.

Dig­i­tal con­nect­ed­ness is also chang­ing the ed­u­ca­tional land­scape, and chal­leng­ing busi­ness schools and other learn­ing in­sti­tu­tions to look again at their value propo­si­tions. With in­for­ma­tion so widely avail­able on the in­ter­net, learn­ing in­sti­tu­tions can no longer just be places where peo­ple sit in class­rooms and lis­ten to an ex­pert.

Learn­ing in­sti­tu­tions need to trans­form them­selves into spa­ces of en­gage­ment and de­bate – places where there are no clear an­swers, but rather mul­ti­ple per­spec­tives. They must be in places where peo­ple come to learn to in­ter­pret in­for­ma­tion and use knowl­edge to make sense of con­flict­ing opin­ions.

These skills are es­sen­tial for busi­ness in the dig­i­tal age.

We have to cre­ate a so­ci­ety that is go­ing to make in­for­ma­tion a pri­or­ity. Some­thing must be done about im­prov­ing peo­ple’s skills around the sub­ject of dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion. We need to un­der­stand the ef­fects of new com­mu­ni­ca­tion meth­ods, and how dig­i­tal me­dia can be used.

One of the big­gest chal­lenges is that any­one can have gen­eral in­for­ma­tion, but com­pa­nies need to un­der­stand that this can be de­stroyed by the dis­rup­tive rev­o­lu­tion.

How­ever, we should not fear this be­cause fear­ful peo­ple be­come con­ser­va­tive. The so­lu­tion is to ed­u­cate peo­ple about how to use dig­i­tal as­sets to build a de­vel­op­ing coun­try. We have to find ways to or­gan­ise our­selves, use fund­ing more ef­fec­tively, waste money less, build as­sets and save money by not im­port­ing things that can be found lo­cally.

If lead­ers are think­ing about the fu­ture, they need to in­vest in ed­u­ca­tion. Start early by giv­ing chil­dren ac­cess to de­cent in­for­ma­tion and sim­ple com­put­ers. The value of ed­u­ca­tion in dis­rup­tive tech­nol­ogy fa­cil­i­tates global in­ter­ac­tion. You can now bring Italy, the US, west Africa and Europe into one class­room.

You can ac­cess in­for­ma­tion and data that is also cheap, but this means that chil­dren need to have eas­ier ac­cess to this in­for­ma­tion. This will help young peo­ple learn and in­vent things.

Dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy al­lows chil­dren to be ac­count­able and take re­spon­si­bil­ity from an early age to de­velop their own ideas.

Dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion will re­sult in a more so­phis­ti­cated and global ori­en­ta­tion to­wards politics and busi­ness man­age­ment. For Africa, we have to find a way to con­nect with other peo­ple, whether in China, the US or Europe, and learn lessons from them. Dig­i­tal ed­u­ca­tion cre­ates more democrati­sa­tion in a coun­try, which is re­ally good news be­cause it al­lows your chil­dren and your chil­dren’s chil­dren to have bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties.

There are mas­sive ed­u­ca­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able on the many on­line re­sources at our

fin­ger­tips, re­sult­ing in more ideas flow­ing in. The down­side is that it can be more chal­leng­ing to es­tab­lish be­cause of oli­garchy in some coun­tries, which still want to have a mo­nop­o­lis­tic con­trol over dig­i­tal re­sources. Economies that have em­braced dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion, such as Rwanda, are driv­ing a num­ber of ini­tia­tives that have in­creased the amount of avail­able in­for­ma­tion, in­creased em­ploy­ment and em­pow­ered peo­ple eco­nom­i­cally.

For ex­am­ple, Tai­wan and South Korea are strong coun­tries that have man­aged their economies in an ex­cel­lent and demo­cratic way.

What is needed is a good ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem and crit­i­cal think­ing. On bal­ance, dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion, like any tool, can be used for good or bad. What you can’t do is stop the tide of change.

Jon Foster-Ped­ley

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