The next time you speak to fresh graduates in their early twenties ask them if they’ve ever used an audio cassette. If you give them a cassette tape and a pencil, they would probably have no clue of the relationship between the objects.
When compact discs were introduced, the music industry spoke of the new level of audio quality – but many of us we were more amazed at the absence of rewinding process when listening to our favourite songs repeatedly.
As I waded through the heavy traffic to Perlis during the Chinese New Year break, I realised that the travel experience is no longer what it used to be. Not a decade ago, we were all tussling with the car’s radio, but today, everyone has his personal entertainment system in the smartphone.
It is said that the younger generation gets the grasp of technology much faster than the previous one. That is true for me.
Today I am labelled tech-savvy and up-to-date with the devices I use, and in applying the latest technology at work. However, I’ve come to realise that it is easier to be tech savvy when you have better access to technology.
Each day, my work allows me to be briefed and see firsthand the latest technological advancements in the world. It allows me to see the potential and possibilities of enriching people’s lives. But many are perhaps not as fortunate as me.
While many of us use technology and are surrounded by those who can share their technology experience, there are those who do not have such access and are put at a disadvantage.
Just a few decades ago, having any computer skills on your resume was a prized asset, but today, having Microsoft Office skill is a requirement for you to even be considered for a low-paying job.
Perhaps, in the next few decades, those with no computer skills would be put in an illiterate list. In future, coding skills may become a literacy standard as demands for software complexities increase.
It is important then for policymakers, teachers and parents to future-proof the next generation. This must be done through granting of access to technology in a manner that they can experience its benefits, work with the technology and integrate it into their daily lives.
However, while it is easy to pass them a smartphone and let the technology distract them, be wary of its effects on their social skills – it is important for us to be part of their technology discovery and harness the potential of the new tools for their interpersonal and future professional development.
In the next few decades, the ability to interact with cyber physical systems will hinge on a person’s ability to communicate with computers that are built into everything he or she owns. This ability is not just on a consumer level, but in machine language – or coding – i.e. those with these skills will play a dominant role in the future economy.
We must maximise the use of new technology to develop their hand-eye coordination, language, cognitive development, visual attention and problem solving skills.
After all, app developers have done an immense job in providing content that is fun and engaging for children, and we should take them as a set of technology applications to expedite our preparation for the quality of life we seek for their future.
On top of this, the government is committed to granting more access at a higher level of participation. Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute is currently developing new programmes in the field of design, science, engineering, robotics and Internet of Things that specifically allow children and teenagers to delve into advanced technologies from a young age.
This is key, because while some future jobs may be rendered obsolete due to the adoption of disruptive technologies, new jobs are constantly emerging. IT-based jobs will also include data scientists, full stack engineers, drive-test engineers, user experience designers and content creators. We must ensure that ample space and access is provided for the development of such valuable talents.
Most importantly, access is not merely a physical space where we can “gamify” technology – it is also unlocking our awareness that the future will demand a change in how we view our personal preparation for the working life.
We must all act now, so that our children inherit a future that can accommodate them.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii)