As we start to catch glimpses of the city of tomorrow – one brought to life by the Internet of Things (IoT), mobile applications, ubiquitous connectivity and other digital technologies – it’s becoming clear that the citizens of tomorrow will also need to adapt.
Smart cities need smart citizens to thrive – and in a digital world, that means a populace with access to – and familiarity with – the technologies that drive much of daily life today.
It’s not enough for smart city leaders to assume this type of education is taking place. They should play an active role in making IT part of the very fabric of public education, in schools and beyond.
The idea is starting to take hold in countries around Europe and the world.
- The Irish government recently revealed plans to bring coding classes to primary schools and computer science to graduation requirements. “It is central to sustaining economic success and in converting economic success into building a strong community,” aptly said Ireland’s Education Minister Richard Bruton.
- A neat program in Hungarian schools is bringing 3-D printers to the classroom with the goal of training kids in modeling and other skills that have applications in the workforce.
- In Israel, the UK and now some Japanese cities, students as young as 5 are required to take computer programming classes to help them think logically and creatively and prepare for a future that will depend even more on technology.
As Andreas Schleicher, a director of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development told The Memo earlier this year, “Students unable to navigate through a complex digital landscape will no longer be able to participate fully in the economic, social and cultural life around them.”
And that includes the benefits of a smart city.
The Nordic region definitely seems to grasp what’s at stake. A report released this summer proposes expanding mandatory education and training to adults to meet the challenges posed by “globalization, digitalization and technological advances.”
“The combination of rapid technological changes and a progressively higher retirement age further increases the need for something new in the education area… The challenge is not to work harder, but to work smarter,” it reads.
This type of adult IT education seems an ideal project for smart cities to champion. The digital divide is real and it can hold back, not only affected individuals, but the city as a whole.
Schools, educators and students – whatever the age – have much to gain from smart city investments. An open digital infrastructure, paired with access to tools that increase collaboration and engagement, improve the educational experience, better preparing students for a job in the knowledge economy of the 21st century.
The world is changing, and the skills needed tomorrow differ from those needed yesterday, or even today. To stay competitive, smart city leaders must ensure citizens have access to digital tools – AND that they know how to use them.
At CSC, we believe the public sector runs best with the right technology and a client-focused partner that can make that happen. This series of blog posts explores the topic and how strong digital leadership can lead to success. We encourage you to provide feedback in the comments section or interact with us on social media. We’d love to hear your thoughts about the Smart City of today – and your vision for tomorrow – and how we can be part of making that a reality.
Venke Bordal is Head of Public Sector Sweden for CSC. Connect with her on LinkedIn.