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  • Writer's picturekaren paterson

How digital are we?

My husband reckons I am the 'geek' in the family, with my interest in all things digital. My interest in technology is not just bits and bytes, feeds and speed, but also the the positive impacts new technologies have on our health, wellness and how we live our lives.

So it is with this backdrop that two technology facts got my attention in the latest World Economic Forum newsletter:

  1. Australia's digital competitiveness with the rest of the world.

  2. The 15 most in demand skills for 2020, according to LinkedIn.

Why does this matter?

COVID-19 has shown how rapidly our country can switch to working digitally when we need to, but where to from here? How do we build on this digital tsunami to increase Australia's competitiveness and attract skilled digital professionals to build our future jobs capability?

Many of the 'hard skills' in the LinkedIn list require analysis, data and advanced technology capabilities, but the skills that attract my attention are the 'soft skills' listed. These focus on our creativity and adaptability, and our ability to influence and persuade others; the more human aspects of digital transformation you could say. I guess I am more interested in these because of my work in communication and engagement, and my interest in human behaviour and what we need to learn to improve how we work together.

Aside from my own interests, I think that combining these hard and soft skills is what will make Australia a bigger powerhouse of digital expertise than it is today, and lift our digital competitiveness to that of the 'digital risers' in our region. At the moment Australia sits at the junction between countries that are increasing their digital competitiveness and those that are losing their digital edge.

What makes the digital risers more competitive and what can we learn from them?

As well as attracting international talent and having programs that make it easier to start a business, I am fascinated to see how some countries are embedding digital studies from early on in school. This includes robotics and other advanced technologies. I think having advanced technologies in school combined with the natural curiosity of children is a winning formula. It seems the countries who are more digitally competitive think so too.

Australia has always been known for its early adoption of new technologies and its innovative approach to solving problems. How can we take that, add the commercial and experimental skills of our startups and established businesses, and combine all of this with the natural curiosity of our children to enhance our digital future?

With grand daughters and grandsons, I am particularly encouraged by the number of grass roots science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) projects underway across Australia. I am excited to see how this leads to future opportunities for my grandchildren and what new skills they develop to take on these opportunities.

If nothing else, my grandchildren's digital expertise keeps me on my toes as I learn how easily they navigate the digital world and what they find interesting in it. It also makes sure I don't become a digital dinosaur!

What are the grass roots projects you think are making a difference to Australia's digital future?


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