miércoles, 25 de mayo de 2016

Reskilling politicians: Digital skills for policy makers

The society and the economy is more digitised as times goes by. It is happening at the same time in all the the developed countries. Take the case of Spain. While the Internet economy is equivalent to 4,4% of the Spanish GNP, the estimation of the share of total economic output derived from “digital” inputs is 20%. An immediate consequence of the growing usage of ICT in all the daily activities will be the need in the near future of some kind of digital skills in 90% of the jobs. 

Policy makers and regulators will certainly be among those who need an understanding a knowledge of the possibilities and effects of digital technologies. This need will not be restricted in the near future only to those in charge of the eGovernment services. Technology is pervasive and it is disrupting every sector, as we are seeing in the case of transport and lodging with the emerging of the shared economy services companies. 

We badly need to train our politicians in digital technologies. We cannot afford policy errors due to a lack of digital competence in a world in global competition. The Strategic Policy Forum on Digital Entrepreneurship, a working group established by the European Commission, suggests for the purpose of provided the politicians with digital competences  the creation of Digital Boot Camps for politicians.

Within one of the events organised by the Luxembourg Presidency of the EU Council, a pilot digital boot camp was held. The audience was composed mainly by labour and employment policy makers with a basic previous knowledge of digital technology. The policy makers debated on the economic and social impact of digital technologies with the background of six dynamic workshops. The practical sessions focused on smart cars, robots, software development, open and big data, 3d printing and cybersecurity set the right stage for a reflection on the consequences of digitalisation on employment.

However, digital boot camps as an isolated experience it is not enough. Besides this kind of immersive and inspiring experiences, it would be needed in-person training and online courses. Therefore, a trusted figure of a digital ambassador should be there to be the fellow travel of the policy makers towards the digital era. The digital ambassador would be also the key to bring together resources and facilitate the coordination with industry and academia for the purpose of policy makers digital capacitation. The central role of the digital ambassador demands independence from any vested interest or stakeholder group. In my opinion, a civil servant with a solid and extended digital knowledge would be the ideal person for this role.

The digital capacitation of the population looks as one of the main challenge for the forthcoming years. Among those who need this training, we need to pay special attention to policy makers in all the social and economic sectors. As the World Bank says in its last report"Technology amplifies the impact of good (and bad) policies, so any failure to reform means falling further behind those who do reform". The daunting task of the digital transformation of the society and the economy requires urgent and accurate policy measures. Either our politicians have the right tools for both or we will lose our future.

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