Investment in education provides digital skills

To keep up with technological development, there is a need for investment in education with a focus on digital technology, according to Dean Niels Chr. Nielsen, Science and Technology, in a contribution to debate.

2017.08.21 | Niels Chr. Nielsen, dekan

Dean Niels Chr. Nielsen, Science and Technology, Aarhus University. Photo: Lars Kruse

Denmark’s digital landscape looks very good on the surface. We are right at the top of the EU’s Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), which shows how far the public and private sectors have come with digital conversion in the different countries.

However, looking into the future in a crystal ball shows that Denmark’s leading position is becoming clouded over.

The Danish Business Authority’s prognosis is clear – Denmark risks being short of 19,000 ICT specialists by 2030. Data technology has a high priority for a considerable number of Denmark’s business leaders, and for many of them, the lack of highly qualified manpower is already the greatest threat facing their business development.

To address this challenge, the government is therefore drawing up a technology pact.

Aarhus University is looking forward to working with this pact, and we have chosen to get in early with the work by launching a comprehensive digitisation initiative with four focus areas.

 

  1. Allocating more than DKK 80 million to the education of more IT specialists.
  2. Strengthening the quality of the degree programmes and study intensity by increased and renewed use of IT in teaching.
  3. Extending relevant digitisation skills to students of all the university’s degree programmes – not only in Computer Science and IT.
  4. Significantly strengthening the area of further and continuing education with a focus on improving offers in the digital area – partly aimed at the business sector, as well as school teachers, where the teaching will have an increased digital focus in future.

 

We will educate the specialists of the future
Education plays an obvious role if we are to address the lack of IT and data skills. The societal responsibility of the universities is therefore clear in this context. In general, we must educate citizens with digitisation skills. And in addition, we must supply more specialists who can transform bits to business at the same time as supporting the digital conversion of the welfare society.

The Digital Growth Panel has pointed out this need, causing reverberations among student year groups – at least there is every indication that intakes for IT and Computer Science degree programmes are increasing.

Aarhus University’s initiative will eventually involve all its academic environments – including arts and social sciences. To begin with, however, we are investing more than DKK 80 million in strengthening the science education and research environments in Computer Science and IT – including IT product development.

This will be achieved by appointing twenty-four new researchers, as well as establishing an interdisciplinary centre for digitisation, big data and data analysis. This investment is being made in addition to the ambitious digitisation initiative launched by the university last year, and which in itself will lead to twice as many engineers with strong digital skills.

The entire education sector is responsible for spreading digital technology
Denmark has a need for all talented individuals in order to solve the task. The entire education sector must therefore work together, preferably in collaboration with the business sector. This involves broad and targeted collaboration that will make us better at arousing and maintaining the interest of young people – and perhaps women in particular – in digital technology.

However, the great demand for manpower also means that continued efforts are required to recruit talented students from abroad. Good study environments and student jobs will help strengthen their affiliation with Denmark and the Danish business community, so that we also benefit from their abilities once they graduate.

Digitisation is not the answer to all the challenges of society. As a society, however, the more digitally skilled we become, the better we will be at exploiting the opportunities and avoiding the pitfalls connected with the fourth industrial revolution, for example.

This type of high-level IT competence does not come about simply because our children use tablets and smartphones in their everyday lives. If we are to be equipped to create and seize the opportunities offered by digitisation, we must not only be users of the technology – we must also master it.

The American computer scientist Alan Kay once said that the best way to predict the future is to invent it. If the future is to be invented in Denmark, it requires broad collaborations and not least targeted investments in the entire education sector.

The contribution to debate was published in the online Danish journal Altinget on 15 August 2017.

Public / media, Staff