The Information Revolution Requires A Matching Education Revolution

Today's most important unreported story is that for many millions of people in the industrialized and developing countries education and training are not keeping up with the information technology revolution. As the world enters the 21st century we need more robust educational education and training, benchmarking to ensure that educational systems provide the skills needed for this new era and resource commitments that recognize that educational investments are critical to economic prosperity and social stability in this new century.

If the benefits of the information technology revolution are to be broadly shared, and its economic potential fully realized, a far greater effort is required during and after school years to enable larger numbers of people to utilize and benefit from new information technologies.

Failure to do this will widen the digital divide and the income gap within and among nations, sowing seeds of social unrest and political instability. It also will deprive our economies of the talents of many people who could make enormous contributions to science, medicine, business, the arts and many other fields of endeavor were they able to realize their full educational and professional potential.

The goal of our societies should be not only to be sure schools and homes are wired and online — itself a critical infrastructure challenge — but to provide education and training programs so that larger and larger numbers of people at all income levels can use these new technologies to learn and create during their school years and throughout their lives.

For the US, whose population is steadily aging, this means ensuring that older citizens have greater training in the use of these new technologies. And it means that younger Americans, especially minorities who will become an increasingly significant portion of the 21st century workforce, have far greater education and training in the use of information technologies than many do now. The better trained they are the better position they will be in to contribute productively to the US economy — empowered by these new technologies. In the emerging economies, IT education is an important part of their evolution into dynamic participants in the global information economy, attracting more and more investment based not only on low labor costs or large domestic markets but also on their innovativeness and ability to adapt to a world where more and more high quality jobs are knowledge based. In much of Asia the financial crisis received so much attention that much of the world paid little attention to the dynamic changes in the information technology sector taking place in the region; impressive as that is, it can be even more impressive as greater investment in human capital expands the number of information / technology savvy citizens in these countries and thus broadens the base of high-tech prosperity.

In the least developed economies, IT education should be a top priority. It is greatly in the world's interest that they be able to achieve their full economic potential. A substantial amount of international support from the private sector and governments will be needed. This can both prevent these nations from falling further behind and unlock the innovative potential of their peoples.

An education revolution in industrialized, emerging and developing nations is needed to keep up with and realize the full potential of the information technology revolution. We should not become so enamoured of technology that we ignore the human dimension that is so critical to its success and to the social progress that these technologies have the potential to accelerate.