Society needs a reboot

Technology is the greatest agent of change in the modern world and it’s our best hope of getting a grip on climate change, hunger, resource scarcity, and other urgent global challenges we face today.

From gravity-powered LEDs that can light up African cities, to next-generation robotics that roll away entire production lines, emerging technologies are improving our lives, making society run more smoothly, and helping safeguard the planet. Add to that the new economies built around Nest, Uber, and the rise of the internet of things, and the future looks very different from the past.

But the scale and nature of these challenges demands new thinking, bigger thinking, innovation that disrupts existing disruptive innovation. It requires us to build a generation of better creators, not just better users of technology.

So where do we begin?

At the beginning, obviously, with those who will shape the future by giving them the building blocks to understand how tech works, what it enables, and the new social and environmental possibilities it can unlock.

As a father, a goal very close to my heart is our mission to build a more tech-literate society – starting with the next generation: primary school kids. 

By 2020, we want to reach five million kids and we plan to do that by inspiring them to get excited by tech concepts, supporting teachers, and equipping schools with super-fast fibre broadband.

There’s a clear economic argument for making kids more tech literate. By 2017, the UK will need 750,000 skilled digital workers.

But the biggest wins for a tech literate society will go way beyond the jobs and careers it creates. As well as the functional upside of learning tech skills, we will be giving a generation of children the tools that will make them more capable of solving our most urgent issues.

I’m reminded of a quote from the late Steve Jobs, who insisted that technology is both everything and nothing. “What’s important is that you have faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.”

To make the next generation truly tech literate is to give them a passport to becoming more active tech citizens. With those tools, I have faith that kids growing up today will accomplish wonderful things.

Niall Dunne is the chief sustainability officer of BT Group

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