What’s your digital baseline, and where do you want it to be?
In conversation with…. Priti Ambani, Director Innovations at Tech Futures Lab
As we all go back to our daily lives and our routines, the persistent question is whether we can, in fact, ‘go back’. For many displaced workers, this is simply not an option.
On the flip side of this is the government’s redeployment and reskilling stimulus efforts to find new roles for these out of work people. For many, those roles will be in completely new sectors to what they’ve trained in and where they’ve come from.
This is a different world we’re re-entering and it's an opportunity to take a big leap forward in the way we do things. From Priti Ambani’s perspective, it's a chance to layer up on the skills we already have with the ones we now need to work and live in the 21st century.
“If we look back to look ahead, the lockdown pushed us to change habits very quickly, learn new things and get out of our comfort zone. We realised that we needed a baseline of new skills - like we needed to use online meeting and collaboration tools, we needed to troubleshoot IT problems, some of us needed to use digital apps to go grocery shopping and use digital queues. Many of us needed to learn to engage with our colleagues and family online. We essentially got a crash course in the digital economy.”
In other words, it became clear that with a baseline of digital skills, we were able to adapt to our new normals, quickly. This ability to shift and pivot rapidly, to use new tools and methods to adapt to a new playing ground, requires agility in the way we think.
Recently, NZTech’s CEO Graeme Muller shared a story about his electrician that demonstrated this beautifully. The electrician, hindered in lockdown by social distancing restrictions, seized the opportunity to build a website, create an electronic booking system and market this through social media. This kind of nimble thinking in his business that he's been able to realise through digital technology has meant his business now has months of forward bookings and enough work to retain a team of 8 people.
Priti says, “if we have a good baseline of digital capability, there’s common understanding - we can all keep shifting together, keep moving up as needed. With that baseline we have a more resilient robust economy, we have a more robust workforce - one that could jump across many jobs, and spot opportunities that could provide many benefits.”
Getting to that baseline requires a shift in perspective of what’s essential to operate in today’s world. Priti believes “we could think of it as a civil right or a civil benefit from government. We must be asking ‘how is the government enabling us, across all New Zealand, to have this baseline level of digital capability?”.
Technology, and the digital economy it underpins, will be a measure of our productivity and competency in everything we do, so we do need to ask, does every Kiwi have access to these essentials and even the internet?
“It shouldn’t matter where you live or work or what you do, you need to have these skills and this access regardless. Almost like reading, writing and arithmetic, we need digital to be an essential taught in everything we do, accessible for everyone.”
Priti is urging us to take what we already know, what we’ve experienced and layer it up with the skills needed in the digital economy. She’s concerned that “if we don’t know what’s out there now, and what will one day be possible, we can’t plan for our futures.”
There’s a surprising notion here that getting close to technology could actually help us discover our future selves.
Technology, by nature, is about change - we use it to move ahead, to redefine our possibilities and enhance our human endeavours. If we can grasp digital technology and how it impacts our world today, we can open our minds to the possibilities for tomorrow. We become more pliable, more adaptable and this allows us to be ready for change. With a pliable mindset we seek out new ideas and knowledge, and that makes us more curious to keep learning. When we feed our curious minds, we gain control over our possibilities. That control can mean security, a robustness in our vision of what lies ahead and a comfort in knowing where we’ll fit.
Now is the time to have a plan, and that plan must involve education in digital technologies.
So, ask yourself, what’s your digital baseline, and where do you want it to be?