This Article featured on The Times of Malta, on 24th September 2024.
Digital technologies, the internet, and artificial intelligence, are transforming the world as we know it at an unprecedented rate. This transformation is having a profound impact on all aspects of our lives, from the way we work and learn to the way we interact with each other and with the world around us.
To reap the full benefits of the digital transition, having the right skills and education is essential, including the ability to use digital technologies effectively as well as apply
critical thinking and problem-solving skills necessary to navigate the rapidly changing digital landscape. Digital skills are particularly relevant to the following areas: labour market challenges and business competitiveness, citizens’ integration in a digital society, and the green transition.
The digital skills supply deficit in the labour market today is having a substantial impact on the competitiveness of businesses. Employers are facing difficulties in recruiting both highly skilled workers for specialised jobs as well as workers required to use basic technologies at the workplace in economic sectors across the board. This is a direct consequence of too few adults upskilling or reskilling compared to the fast-paced digital transformation.
Today digital skills are no longer a peripheral issue, but a central component of education, lifelong learning and teaching. All stakeholders in education need to strategically reflect on how digital technologies can be further embedded into education and training. The digital transformation in education is being driven by advances in connectivity, the widespread use of devices and digital applications, the need for individual flexibility, and as mentioned earlier, the ever-increasing demand by employers for digital skills.
The digital transformation in education requires an enhanced and consistent dialogue, as well as stronger partnerships between educators, researchers, businesses
, and public authorities, who jointly provide and have shared access to evidence-based data to monitor progress and forecast the challenges and opportunities of the digital transformation in education more accurately.
However, digital competence is essential not only for workers, but also for educators in general. This should be a core skill at all levels for educators and trainers in all academic fields. Educators need the confidence and skills to use technology effectively and creatively to engage and motivate learners. To this end, they should have access to the latest digital tools and provided ongoing opportunities for professional learning and development tailored to their needs and their academic discipline.
Digital literacy is also an essential requirement for citizens in general in a digitalized world. It is important to educate people of all ages about the impact of digital technology on personal well-being and on cybersecurity risks of technology systems. This shall enable people to use digital technologies in a healthy, safe, and meaningful way. Furthermore, basic digital skills should be part of the core transferable skills that every citizen should have. These skills are essential for personal development, civic engagement, accessing public services, and exercis
ing basic rights.
Within the private sector, digital technologies offer SMEs a variety of opportunities to improve productivity, such as by helping them to innovate products, expand markets, improve business processes, service offering, and lower transaction costs. Closing the digital skills gap is therefore essential for the digital transformation of SMEs. Information and communication technologies are at the core of the knowledge economy, but they cannot be leveraged without investment in human capital. SMEs already face excessive competition and higher costs to find and retain digital talent. Investing in their existing workforce to reskill and upskill in an affordable and effective manner is essential.
Meanwhile, digital skills are not only crucial for the competitiveness of businesses but also for achieving the European Green Deal objectives of reaching climate neutrality by 2050. Digital technologies are powerful enablers for the green economic transition, including for moving to a circular economy and decarbonizing energy, transport, construction, agriculture, and all other industries and sectors. In parallel, it is important to reduce the climate and environmental footprint of digital products, particularly their energy intensity, and facilitate a move towards more sustainable practices in both the development, use, and disposal of digital products.
Given the recognised importance of skills and education in the digital transition, the European Commission in its 2030 Digital Compass, sets out a plan to achieve digital transformation of the EU economy and society. This aims that by 2030, 80% of adults in the EU should have at least basic digital skills. The acquisition of basic digital skills should be a right for all EU citizens and lifelong learning should become a priority. Other aims include the securitisation of sustainable digital infrastructures, the facilitation of the digital transformation of businesses and the digitalisation of public services.
The digital transformation is undoubtedly a complex and challenging undertaking, but it is essential for the future of Malta and the EU. More investment in digital skills will empower citizens, create a more competitive economy, and build a more sustainable future.
Alison Mizzi is the President of the Malta Business Bureau (MBB). The MBB is the EU business advisory organisation of The Malta Chamber and the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association. It is also a partner of the Enterprise Europe Network.