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

In the era of immediate dissemination of information, what qualifies as being “relevant”?

The swift progress of digital technologies has emphasised the necessity for enhanced access to digital literacy. The ramifications of the digital divide have been accentuated even more due to the ongoing pandemic, making this an ideal time to initiate action.

Insights acquired during my journey

I’d like to share some information about my past experiences. During my upbringing in the early 1980s, the Internet had not yet emerged and the quantity of information available was restricted. Back then, there was a predetermined trajectory to adhere to: complete high school, enter the workforce, and climb the ranks in a corporate job.

As an exemplary scholar who consistently met expectations, I earned accolades at school. I followed the rules and earned a Mathematics degree, not because it was my calling, but because I believed it would portray me as intelligent. Unaware of the rapidly evolving world, I persisted in utilising the same strategies I had always used.

As I approached my mid-30s, I had a sense that I had fallen short in many aspects of my life. Reading Daniel Pink’s book A Whole New Mind provided me with the enlightenment that I required to progress when several other books had failed to do so. After completing Pink’s work, I began to question if I was just another insignificant part of a larger system. As Pink suggests, was it feasible for me to lead a fulfilling and meaningful life?

Whilst working in the banking industry, I endeavoured to use my background to facilitate Asian individuals in realising their complete potential. After meeting other women who possessed a similar desire to comprehend their identities, I co-founded a network with this group six years ago to eliminate the obstacles we encountered.

After realising the significant difference between my present circumstances and my envisioned situation, I comprehend that I must exert rigorous effort, acknowledge failure as a beneficial chance for improvement, and be open to adjusting to the continuously evolving technological environment to attain success.

How could this be advantageous?

It became apparent to me that technology was the missing ingredient, and I’d like to address the issue of the digital divide at present.

Disparities in access to technology

Presently, more than ever, our dependence on technological progress is becoming increasingly apparent. We’re using technology to keep in touch with loved ones and to perform tasks even when we’re physically apart. My niece, Dimuna, and my nephew, Malambo, are both utilising various electronic devices, with Dimuna exploring diverse methods of creating content and generating income, while Malambo has recently enrolled in a school to pursue his passion for game design. At the age of 16, they’ve already had numerous opportunities to cultivate and express their ideas, and they have a well-defined vision of their aspirations.

At the age of 16, I had no definite comprehension of my future goals. However, technological developments are presently providing prospects to unleash potential, when utilised correctly.

It’s crucial that we recognise and value the significance of digital accessibility in today’s world. The discrepancy between individuals who have been exposed to a technologically sophisticated society and those who haven’t is substantial. The digital divide intensifies the divide between affluent individuals and the remainder of society, depriving women, girls, and disadvantaged groups of resources that could enable them to lead a more independent and respectable existence. Unfortunately, this might become a deeply ingrained generational practice.

It’s apparent that a cooperative endeavour among the government, non-profit entities working to alleviate poverty, and the private sector is necessary to discover a viable solution to this intricate problem.

I contemplated, “How can I make a contribution to finding a solution?”

I resolved to pursue a career in the technology industry. I commenced working for an organisation that aims to connect individuals to opportunities that enable them to realise their potential. My responsibilities consisted of interacting with members of the education community to aid them in acquiring the technical skills necessary to prosper.

I progressed from being uncertain to having a clearer notion of what to pursue next. I resolved to devote a lifetime to a purpose that transcends my personal interests.

Bouteina is a primary school teacher in Asia, who exemplifies how coding skills can be acquired, even without any prior experience or access to computers. She was able to obtain these new skills and utilise them to educate her students on coding.

Paul, another software developer, serves as an illustration of an individual who has endeavoured to improve themselves. Just a short time ago, Paul was employed as a janitor, utilising his spare time to advance his education.

It has been reported that, apart from Paul and Bouteina, 80,000 other individuals from Asia have been trained in coding, problem-solving, and communication skills, equipping them with the essential abilities to make a constructive contribution to the contemporary workforce.

Listening to the accounts of Bouteina and Paul can serve as a source of motivation for individuals to introspect on their own lives and envisage alternative futures. From my standpoint, having access to and proficiency with digital technology is more about emotionally empowering individuals than it is about hardware or software. I am of the opinion that everyone should be entitled to this privilege.

What’s your next move, and how can you advance your journey?

It’s crucial to contemplate your individual circumstances while making decisions about your future. If you have had the privilege of utilising technology from a young age, I would advise you to persist in using your curiosity to investigate and uncover opportunities to make a favourable impact on society.

If my experience resonates with you, it may be advantageous to seek out someone from the younger generation to learn from and make inquiries. This is due to the fact that 65% of our workforce and all of your potential future employees belong to the next generation.

As someone in a leadership position, it’s your duty to make the tough choices that will provide the next generation with the chance to mould their own futures.

It’s crucial that we leverage technology to create mutual value. To sustain our competitiveness, it is imperative to keep innovating with a precise objective, an adaptable mindset, and at a rapid pace, as proposed by Jim Loree.

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