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IBE director calls for greater tech company investment in education

The private sector and tech companies must invest more heavily in education if the world is to avoid “horrifying” inequalities which can ultimately lead to social fracture and political instability, the IBE Director has warned the world’s largest Web conference.

“It’s disappointing to see how the private sector and tech companies underinvest in education even though they are the prime beneficiaries who claim the best of the crop,” Dr Mmantsetsa Marope told the 2017 Web Summit in Lisbon in November.

Improve access to Web
“This picture needs to change,” she said. “We also need a combination of UN agencies  - setting norms and standards – alongside government, the private sector and individuals working together to ensure much wider access to the World Wide Web. If not, we will see a collapse of the equity goals within the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), risking social fracture, political instability and peace. Where there is no peace – the UN’s chief goal - there is no development.”

Dr Marope was sharing a platform with Asheesh Advani of Junior Achievement Worldwide, Adrian Lovett, CEO of the World Wide Web Foundation, Mariéme Jamme of IAMTHECODE, on a panel moderated by Paul Michelman of the MIT Sloan Management Review.

Self-agency is vital competence
The panel discussed skills that will be needed for future jobs and work in the 21st century. Dr Marope explained: “One of the critical competences is self-agency. Each and every learner, be they a child and adolescent or an old person must be a self-benefiting agent. They should not wait for things to happen to them but rather act on their environments to change them for the better – whether connected or not connected - to bring about a personal, public and global good. They should be someone who can define that good and know how to use multiple resources to attain it.

“Underlying self-agency is the most important competence: to be an efficient and effective lifelong learner, because what we learn in the 21st century can become obsolete very quickly. If we know how to learn, we will take up the challenge presented by new contexts to learn afresh and be self-renewing all the time. We have to be lifelong learners. So, education systems have to focus more on how to learn rather than just on what to learn.”

Dr Marope emphasised the importance of access to the Web:  “The Fourth Industrial Revolution is changing not only the pace of change. It is, more importantly, intensifying the complexity of change in the 21st century. This means that the game of catch-up is more daunting than in past centuries. We cannot afford to have anyone left behind, so access is going to be one of the critical competences.”

She was backed up by Adrian Lovett, CEO of the World Wide Web Foundation, who warned that progress on equalizing access was stalling. He said: “Half the world is on line but there is 50 per cent still go. SDG 9c – ‘to significantly increase access to ICT’ - will not be achieved till 2042. By then billions of us will be in driverless cars while billions of us have yet to send out first email. That is not just the world of the ‘Haves’ and ‘Have-nots’ but the world of the ‘Have-nots’ and the ‘Have-bots’.”

Access to learning is key
School should not, warned Dr Marope, be seen as the sole location for learning. “We should be careful about equating education and learning to schooling,” she said. “We are talking about education using multimedia access whether it is from your grandmother who is a super artist and can apprentice you and mentor you, whether it is from World Wide Web, whether it is from a peer learner who is teaching you, or from your colleague or your neighbour. The fundamental issue here is tackling the inequity of access to opportunities for learning not just to schooling.

This point was emphasized by Mariéme Jamme, a Senagalese businesswoman who launched IAMTHECODE, a new movement aimed at mobilizing governments, businesses and investors to support girls and young women in STEAMD (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics, and Design):  Ms Jamme, 43,  said: “I have never been to school. I have never sat in a classroom. I started reading and writing when I was 16 years old. Today, I code in 7 languages. I learned in other ways.” Ms Jamme said that her goal was to enable one million girls and women to code by 2030.