Talk Given at TED Conferences on Staying Current in the Information Age

In this day and age of instant information distribution, what does it mean to be “relevant”?

The rapid advancement of digital technologies has highlighted the need for increased access to digital literacy. The impact of the digital gap has been further highlighted due to the current pandemic, making this an opportune moment to take action.

Lessons learned during my trip

I would like to provide some insight into my background. Growing up in the early 1980s, the Internet was not yet in existence and the amount of data available was limited. At that time, there was an expected path to follow: graduate high school, join the workforce and progress up in a corporate career.

As a model student who excelled in meeting expectations, I achieved recognition at school. I adhered to the regulations and obtained a Maths degree, not because it was my passion, but because I believed it would make me appear to be intelligent. Without realizing the world was rapidly developing, I continued using the same techniques I had always employed.

By the time I reached my mid-30s, I had the feeling that I had failed to achieve success in many aspects of my life. Reading Daniel Pink’s book A Whole New Mind gave me the insight I needed to progress, when many other books had failed to do so. After I had finished reading Pink’s work, I began to question if I was just another cog in the wheel. As Pink suggests, was it feasible for me to have a life full of purpose and satisfaction?

Whilst employed in banking, I sought an opportunity to utilize my background in order to help Asian people reach their full potential. After meeting other women who shared a similar interest in understanding their identities, I co-founded a network six years ago with this group in order to break down the barriers we faced.

Upon recognizing the stark contrast between my current circumstances and my desired situation, I realize that I have to put in hard work, accept failure as a valuable opportunity for growth and be willing to adapt to the ever-changing technological landscape in order to achieve success.

How may it be useful?

It became clear to me that technology was the missing piece, and I’d want to bring up the issue of the digital divide now.

Inequality in access to technology

Now, more than ever, our reliance on technological advancements is becoming increasingly evident. We are using technology to stay connected with our loved ones and to complete tasks even when we are separated by distance. My niece, Dimuna, and my nephew, Malambo, are both utilizing multiple electronic devices, with Dimuna exploring different methods of creating content and generating revenue, and Malambo having recently enrolled in a school to pursue his interest in game design. At the age of 16, they have already had many opportunities to refine and share their ideas, and they have a clear vision of what they want to achieve.

At the age of 16, I had no clear understanding of what my future aspirations were. Nevertheless, technological advances are now providing opportunities to unlock potential, when used appropriately.

It is essential that we acknowledge and appreciate the importance of digital access in today’s world. The disparity between those who have grown up in a technologically advanced society and those who have not is significant. The digital divide increases the gap between the wealthy and the rest of society, depriving women, girls, and underprivileged groups of resources that could empower them to live a more autonomous and dignified life. Unfortunately, this could become an entrenched generational pattern.

It is evident that a collaborative effort between government, non-profit organisations striving to reduce poverty and the private sector is required in order to find a sustainable solution to this complex problem.

I pondered, “How can I contribute to finding a solution?”

I decided to pursue a career in the technology sector. I began working for a company that strives to link individuals with the chance to realize their potential. My role involved engaging with members of the learning community to assist them in acquiring the technical abilities required to succeed.

I went from being confused to having a better idea of what to do next. I decided to make a lifelong commitment to a cause greater than myself.

Bouteina, a primary school teacher in Asia, is an example of how the acquisition of coding skills can be achieved, even without any prior experience or access to computers. She was able to learn these new abilities and use them to teach her students how to code.

Paul, another software developer, serves as an example of someone who has worked hard to better themselves. Not too long ago, Paul was employed as a cleaner, using his free time to further his education.

It has been reported that, in addition to Paul and Bouteina, 80,000 other Asians have received training in coding, problem-solving and communication skills, equipping them with the necessary skills to make a positive contribution to the modern workforce.

Hearing Bouteina and Paul’s story can be a source of inspiration for individuals to reflect on their own lives and think of alternative futures. In my opinion, having access to and proficiency with digital technology is more about empowering people emotionally than it is about the hardware or software. I believe that everyone should have this right.

Where do you go from here, and what can you do to further your journey?

It is important to consider your individual circumstances when making decisions about your future. If you have had the opportunity to use technology from a young age, I would suggest that you continue to use your inquisitiveness to explore and discover how you can make a positive contribution to society.

If you can relate to my experience, it may be beneficial to seek out someone from the younger generation to learn from and ask questions of. This is because 65% of our workforce and all of your potential future employees are of the next generation.

As someone in a position of leadership, it is your responsibility to make the difficult decisions that will give the next generation the chance to shape their own futures.

It is essential that we utilise technology to our mutual benefit in order to generate value. To remain competitive, it is necessary to continue innovating with a specific aim, an open attitude and at a swift rate, as Jim Loree has suggested.

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