Parents tell me that they’re grappling with a tech conundrum. They want their children to be digital natives - able to get the most from technologies in all aspects of their lives. But they also find themselves worrying whether spending too much time in front of a screen is a good thing. In a world where digital skills are so important, how do we get that messaging right?
We need to start by understanding why we care about tech literacy. From an economic perspective, it’s a no-brainer. Digital skills underpin a productive, internationally competitive and resilient economy. When we think about the current and future shape of the workforce, it’s difficult to imagine a role that doesn’t need some level of digital skills. Currently, more than 1.3 million people work in digital roles and we predict needing a million new people for digital jobs in the next decade. What’s clear is that we need to prepare our young people for the careers of the future and inspire them about tech opportunities.
But this isn’t just an economic argument. From uploading and commenting on blogs, to designing new apps, our young people are using their digital skills to understand, shape and create the world they live in. Technology can help us to make the most of our social lives - from connecting with people to gaining new skills and experiences. As technology continues to develop at pace, we want every person to be able to make the most of it, and exploit the benefits it provides.
BT’s event on Cracking the UK Tech Literacy Challenge will focus on the role we all need to play to make tech literacy a reality. As Government, we’re committed to education and training systems that are world-leading and are developing the skills that individuals and employers require. A good example of this is the new school computing curriculum which we launched last year. This has moved away from dull, theoretical content to a focus on solving real world problems using creativity and computational thinking. Not only are our young people learning practical skills such as coding, but they are gaining a wider skill set that will support them in whatever careers they choose.
My question to you - and it’s not an easy one, is how do we make the case for tech literacy meaningful to not only our young people, but to their parents, teachers and those who support them? How can we encourage people to gain the skills that will not only enrich their social lives, but make them both employable and desirable to employers? This is about inspiring every young person and giving them the information to make informed decisions about their futures.
We also need to challenge our own preconceptions. Whilst at times we might feel that using technology is antisocial - both for adults and children - the online community is surprisingly vibrant and collaborative. New platforms are giving our young people innovative opportunities to express their feelings and to share their skills and abilities with others.
So perhaps next time you’re wondering whether to ask your children to turn off their screens, maybe ask them to spend a bit of time showing and sharing their tech skills instead.
Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy
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