Innovation and digitisation post Covid-19
As we enter a new era in the Escola’s development and begin to work on our new project YEPMED, which aims to ameliorate the labour situation for young people across the Mediterranean, we have caught up with Anwar Zibaoui to share his thoughts on the importance of collaboration and sharing of know how in the era of the 4th industrial revolution, and the digitisation and innovation that come with it. Check out the full article below.
The YEPMED Project aims to better match the labour market skills needs and dual TVET offer in the Mediterranean Port communities sector in order to contribute to jobs creation and productive economic growth.
Twelve years after the world financial crisis sent the economies of the developed and developing world into disarray, we are once again facing an unknown situation. An unprecedented tsunami that has confined millions of people to their homes, shaken the stock markets, forced countless businesses to close, including local markets and restaurants and emptied our streets, paralyzing our economies. Historical precedents tell us that such a situation could significantly alter political and economic systems, reconfigure ideas and theories, and impose radical changes to our lifestyles.
In this case, the unexpected allies have been innovation and digital technology, which helped alleviate the impact of COVID-19 on individuals, businesses and governments. In the midst of the chaos, a new era set in the digital world is emerging, and with it creating new opportunities. Nevertheless the benefits of technology are not equally distributed, as more than 3.6 billion people on the planet still do not have access to the Internet. In the informal economy, teleworking does not exist. For millions of children, access to online education is a remote dream.
It is time to coordinate our reaction to the new challenges, because innovation and digitalisation are here to stay. Their implementation has accelerated exponentially and there is no turning back now. It has changed the way we work, learn, buy or socialise. We must be prepared for the so-called new normality.
Never before has the digital agenda been as necessary and vital as it is now. It is not only an immediate response to the measures taken to combat the virus, but it is also indispensable to research and innovation. The current economic models are breathless because of the speed of change. We are in the era of globalisation, climate change, pandemics, digital transformation, the collaborative economy, urban concentration and the depopulation of the rural world. All of these represent many changes that governments all across the globe are struggling to regulate. However, these also highlight new divergences and polarizations between economies and societies. This is why new responses are needed.
There is no doubt that technological change threatens jobs, but it can also create alternatives. Relations at work, between companies, employees, services, mobility… are evolving. The only key to progress is to improve innovation and education. As in everything else, the future of Europe, Africa and the Mediterranean lies in adapting, sharing experiences and moving forward together.
Following the current model, Mediterranean governments are focusing on job creation rather than on business creation. This is an outdated model that consists of launching massive public employment programmes instead of financing and investing in successful businesses that create jobs. It is clear that economic progress is directly related to training, research and innovation activities, and that there is a correlation between social progress and business activities.
The life cycle of companies should demonstrate to many countries that the secret of eternal youth is constant innovation. Governments need to balance expenditures and invest in tangible infrastructure such as roads, railways or ports. However, they must also invest in intangibles such as education, research and development. R&D is the key driver for building and consolidating a knowledge economy and implementing a culture of creativity in which young people are inspired, transform their ideas, raise their ambitions and pursue their dreams.
Entrepreneurship and the private sector can drive adaptation to technology and innovation, be the vehicle to engage young people and move forward. We must promote a new mental framework, a new attitude, harnessing the energy of young people, and fresh ideas, because these are the ones that bring opportunities. Innovation is a lever for value creation because it transforms the way we do business and has a multiplier effect on the growth of a nation and its companies.
Innovation is the way to growth and survival. It is the model for the promotion of a company or a country. Technology is already here, but by itself it is not the answer. It is a facilitator and accelerator of new ways of being and doing. To be able to create wealth and ensure a future, innovation is not an option, it is a necessity.
The Mediterranean region will have to create hundreds of millions of new jobs over the next three decades. This challenge presents an opportunity for the region to transform its economies and harness the creativity of its large youth population and the disruptive power of technology to create wealth.
Whether we like it or not, production lines will require less and less manpower thanks to more efficient machines, automation and robotics. In addition, the next wave will bring more artificial intelligence, 3D printing and new capabilities that will make additional manual labour redundant. We already know that 8 out of 10 jobs will be lost due to new technologies (not immigration or globalization), that 64% of the jobs that exist today will be automated, and that 66% of the jobs for the next 10 years have not yet been invented.
The transition to the fourth industrial revolution, combined with a crisis of governance, makes it imperative to thoroughly reconsider human capital and adapt education to the labour market in order to achieve prosperity and stability. New digital technologies generate a new competitiveness that, for the moment, does not apply to many Mediterranean countries. For the region, a successful transition would guarantee business competitiveness and be a determining factor for regional industrial consolidation. Doing nothing is a risk of negative impact on its future growth and productivity.
In our region, the most immediate economic challenge is not diversification or new tax regimes, but the creation of productive and sustainable jobs for the youth. At the same time, we must be equipped with the combination of talents and skills that will make industry 4.0 a generator of wealth and social peace. We must be concerned about the level of training of the workforce and its quantitative and qualitative nature. The factors that today allow us to better evaluate it are the development of the digital culture, the skills and the capacity to think creatively.
The region has an enormous human capital waiting to be developed. Education, the promotion of the private sector and an understanding of this technological revolution will be key ingredients for success. This is a complex task that will require a broad social consensus and determined action by governments.
The digital potential is unlimited. This represents an opportunity for the Mediterranean. A large market with rapid growth. A hub of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. Young people have the resources to find solutions to pressing problems.
Leaving the Mediterranean behind in the digital transformation is not an option. The pace of the fourth industrial revolution will wait for no one. As the United States and Asia move forward, Europe and the Mediterranean need to forge their own identity. Today the imbalance is obvious, and everything that prevents an improvement in innovative capacity is conditioning the future.
The main key to innovation is training. Companies that invest in their employees to provide them with the right knowledge are the ones that grow. Governments must do the same, improving qualifications and promoting innovation in all key sectors of the economy and in the education system. If they stop betting on the education of the new generations, they will condemn them to depend on others for life.
There is a great need for a new platform of collaboration that brings together governments with businesses and other actors interested in public-private cooperation in the Mediterranean, facilitating a progressive dialogue that understands and respects the values and culture of the region. Investment in young people is needed to unlock the demographic dividend in an area where the interests of governments, the private sector and international organizations are fully aligned. This requires joint action by all today, to ensure a prosperous region tomorrow.
This crisis will pass, but we must not forget that innovation and digitalisation are the path to survival and development, the fuel for constant progress and the model for the rise of a company, a nation or a region.
Article published in its original form can be found here.