How can stakeholders of the digital economy steer new technologies toward national prosperity, fulfil key global priorities, and create an equitable world? Divya Gokulnath believes education is the key. Image: ShutterstockT
he world is in the midst of an innovation era, and its impact on lives and livelihoods has never been more significant. As a teacher for more than 15 years, witnessing technology empower young India with the right education, skills, and learning mindset is astounding.
From a system-wide disruption to the rapid adoption of digital education, the learning lives of our youth are evolving, empowering them to reach their full potential. In keeping technology at the forefront of development—as we rapidly transition to a knowledge economy—our burgeoning young population finds itself at the centre of this innovation revolution.
This precedes over two decades of reforms, policy interventions, and an emphasis on nurturing tech ecosystems. This rapid progression raises a fundamental question: How can stakeholders of the digital economy steer new technologies toward national prosperity, fulfil key global priorities, and create an equitable world?
The answer lies in the basics—education.
Empowering people, communities, and economies
Equality, inclusion, and equity are the foundations of society, and education forms the fulcrum of this triad. It spurs the development of thought, freedom, and agency. It empowers people, communities, and economies. Yet, across the world, more than 72 million children are not able to gain access to an adequate education. In India, which is home to one of the largest education systems, only about 43 percent of the roughly 255 million youth in the 15–25 age group are enrolled in educational institutions. Also read: Can vernacular edtech become mainstream?
But, what is it that keeps education out of reach for millions? A UNICEF report points to the lack of qualified teachers, inadequate teaching materials, and poor sanitation. The most striking of these observations, however, is that the lack of education is not only due to poor access but also a direct consequence of the poor quality of teaching.
This presents all stakeholders—government, industry, and academia—a massive opportunity to bring a large, untapped population into the fold through last-mile, tech-driven, high-quality education and truly leverage the power of a young demographic. Technology’s role in advancing equitable development through digital empowerment is a tangible and critical piece of this puzzle. Also read: The constantly evolving educators of edtech
From empowering teachers with tools and training to predicting and solving students' learning needs, technology in the development and delivery of education provides a long-term, sustainable solution to make it more accessible, cost-effective, and scaled-up for millions of learners. In fact, the World Bank, in a report, has also stated that the global adoption of edtech solutions enabled continuous, seamless, and accessible education during the pandemic.
Prioritising inclusivity, infrastructure, governance, and quality-related outcomes is a key measure today, and India’s dynamic edtech ecosystem is critical to achieving this.
Solving for billions
People, ideas, and capital fuel innovation. The Indian edtech ecosystem, in particular, is leveraging these three tenets to create high-quality education products and learning solutions to truly empower not just students but also teachers, parents, and other stakeholders around the world. By meeting the shifting needs of learners—from tech-powered virtual learning during the pandemic to innovative hybrid formats—the ecosystem continues to mature and expand globally.Also read: It's wartime but it's not a challenge: Byju Raveendran on the future of online learning
From a policy lens as well, initiatives such as Digital India and the National Education Policy 2020 are set to help India take a big step forward in making education at par with global needs, transforming future challenges into opportunities, and strengthening a culture of inclusion and innovation.
Defining the global narrative
Education is an equalizer, and technology is a powerful driver. Their convergence has the potential to unlock learning opportunities for millions and take India into the next phase of growth. India’s entrepreneurial prowess is well placed to achieve this.
Data and demographic dividends, combined with India's proven tech prowess, also present a massive opportunity for the startup ecosystem to script India’s growth for the coming decades. Our growing commitment to using technology to advance key global priorities is reflected in initiatives such as the launch of the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in India in partnership with the World Economic Forum. Also read: Education in a crisis: How do we cope and improve?
As the speed of innovation propels economies towards new models of productivity, value creation, and automation, the emerging drivers of growth will completely transform the skills required to contribute to the economy. A futuristic, tech-driven, first-mover approach to high-quality and inclusive education will be crucial to meet these new demands.
By capitalising on technical and entrepreneurial advances, India is demonstrating its strong commitment to achieving balanced, inclusive, and sustainable development over the next 75 years. I truly believe that any successful model in India that uses technology to create a more inclusive and sustainable society can be replicated in other economies, affecting billions of people.