It is incredible to see how the events of the year 2020 reshaped humanity, highlighting the significant and pressing issue of growing economic and digital divide. With the series of watershed moments experienced across the globe, ensuring widespread access to technology and technical skills development is of prime importance now more than ever. In doing so, this will help with leveling the playing field for underrepresented groups and underserved communities. Today, considering the enormous amount of progress technology has made by harnessing innovation, we have more opportunities to reshape our world – leveraging digital technologies to deliver social change.
Leveraging the demographic window of opportunity
It is said that India will continue to have one of the youngest populations in the world until 2030, and there is a clear need to leverage this demographic dividend and prepare the younger generation for workforce 2030. Investing in this youth demographic will play a significant role in contributing towards the national objective of economic growth – with education being an important pillar for impacting change. This can be done by harnessing technology to democratize education consistently across India, and ensuring the that the right infrastructure and access to connectivity is in place. When it comes to modernizing education and skills training, digital learning has emerged as a key tool for advancement. With the help of the tech industry, it is now much simpler to adopt innovative tech and online platforms that can make education more affordable, accessible and effective, and improve access to top-ranking educators. There is huge scope for improving upon higher education – in terms of encouraging companies and educational institutions to research rapidly changing workforce needs and solutions; partner to align curricula with industry needs and expectations; and implement skills training and re-skilling programs as jobs and needs change.
At the grassroots level, we would stand to benefit from fostering a culture of innovation by STEM in early education, as well as digital literacy in public education and training programs. This will enable us to promote contextualized intelligence, entrepreneurial mindset and digital literacy as we prepare the younger generation for workforce 2030.
Balancing social inclusion, innovation and entrepreneurship
The unprecedented challenges faced this year have tested the capability of technology and innovation in shaping businesses, industries, and the way we work and live. Along with the accelerated pace of technological development, we saw transformative changes in our approach to advancing health, education and economic opportunity and solving complex societal challenges. The next steps we take towards a better future will be critical in forming the basis of our growth and success. This calls for greater support for diverse workforces in empowering businesses to grow and innovate, and improved access to capital, global markets and opportunities for diverse entrepreneurs. The use of advanced analytics and AI in addressing inequalities and human bias in employment decisions is gaining traction in organizational efforts to promote equal opportunities for all. Leveraging technological expertise and scale, companies need to partner with communities and non-profit organizations to help maximize their cause for social good. Beyond this, ensuring proper upskilling and reskilling opportunities for the development and growth of the community helps remove barriers to advancement, especially for women. This can positively impact workforce fluidity and job security amongst individuals, leading to better social outcomes for businesses and individuals alike.
Virtual Volunteerism and the role of individual changemakers
With a significantly higher number of employees shifting to remote working situations this year, we have seen a marked increase in individuals taking up virtual volunteering to support non-profit organizations in local and global communities. This has worked incredibly well, and presents the opportunity not just for an existing group of volunteers to continue contributing time from their homes, but also for engaging a new part of the workforce that is now ready to contribute to meaningful social impact. Technology has made it possible for us to help communities in need in spite of physical and geographical barriers. A great example of this is skills-based volunteering, which calls upon the expertise of employees to help tackle complex problems. In India, a team of volunteers helped HeartRescue India—part of a global program working to reduce the risk of death from sudden cardiac arrest and severe heart attacks—with its business plan, including opportunities to expand services and better integrate with the nation’s health system. In compliance with national and state measures and restrictions, schools and universities had to discontinue in-person classes, causing temporary disruption to education services and risking long-term consequences of increased inequality and reduced social cohesion. To counter the impact of this disruption, many companies joined hands with non-profit organizations to enable students to continue their learning, especially those most marginalized by these measures. Employees were found contributing a considerable amount of their time to helping government school students stay on top of their syllabus, mentoring underprivileged students on life skills and many other activities that turned them into champions of social cause.
Strengthening our response to the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on underserved communities, there is a renewed focus on innovation and skilling for the future through solutions provided by technology. From building digital platforms for critical knowledge sharing to advancing healthcare through the power of data, the scope and possibilities of impactful innovation in technology are limitless.
By Vinita Gera, Senior Director and GM, India COE, Dell Technologies