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ITU hinges digital transformation on skills upgrade

By Adeyemi Adepetun
10 November 2021   |   2:43 am
The United Nations’ arm saddled with global communications, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), has hinged digital transformation across countries on skills’

The United Nations’ arm saddled with global communications, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), has hinged digital transformation across countries on skills’ upgrades by individuals and nations.
  
ITU said the lack of digital skills and access to digital networks slows efforts to rebuild safe, healthy and efficient social and working environments.

  
The UN body said there was a need to promote skills development and knowledge exchange to ensure everyone can thrive in a tech-driven post-COVID world.
  
According to international experts in the 2021 edition of Digital Skills Insights, released by the ITU on Monday, more efforts must be channeled to ensure that skills are upgraded across.
  
Digital Skills Insights 2021 provides experts’ insights to equip policy-makers and regulators for informed decision-making, encourage further research on the impact of COVID-19 on skills development, and help anticipate rapidly evolving digital skills requirements.
  
The experts recommended that countries need to collect data and evidence, take stock of current skill levels, and identify local gaps and needs before initiating policy measures or embarking on new initiatives. Also, national digital skills frameworks must be adapted to reflect each country’s labour market and skills gaps.
  
They pointed out that digital skills and access are interdependent, requiring concurrent implementation of last-mile connectivity, other infrastructure-related measures, and training initiatives.
  
ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao, said: “Everyone deserves access, not just to digital devices and connectivity, but also to the essential skills and knowledge to thrive in today’s technological world.
  
“Closing the digital skills gap remains an essential, and increasingly urgent, aspect of establishing universal connectivity. Governments and industry must collaborate to help build and upgrade people’s digital skills in all countries.”

Zhao said the world has paid more attention to digital skills over the past year, with countries looking closely at supply and demand for key competencies, researchers evaluating the impact of ongoing digital transformation, and policy-makers reviewing current frameworks and designing new interventions to address skills gaps for future requirements at the national level.
 
Deepening the conversation, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, said in this period of continued uncertainty, a collective global effort is needed to ensure that everyone, everywhere, has digital skills and network access.

 
“These are prerequisites to adjust to a ‘new normal’ and come out stronger. Lack of digital skills and access, in contrast, are barriers that slow down joint efforts and exacerbate an already existing and stark digital divide,” Bogdan-Martin stated.
 
To address digital skills gaps, the experts said countries striving for digital transformation need to start with rigorous data and evidence collection, address specific digital skills gaps, and roll out relevant training in parallel with new network infrastructure.