You don’t need to be a computer programmer to get ahead in the future world of work, but you do need to gain a level of proficiency in understanding and using technology.
BY: Abu Addae
Since the Coronavirus came to town, we’ve all become a lot more tech fluent. You might not have thought about it quite this way before, but COVID-19 has accelerated digital trends by helping us reimagine how products and services can be delivered in a contactless world. More of us have experimented with online shopping and mobile banking. Some retailers are reporting seeing two-years’ worth of digital uptake on their online platforms in the space of just two months.
Companies will now be more willing to invest in their end-to-end digital processes and customer touchpoints, both out of necessity to survive and in response to changing customer expectations. This means all of us will encounter more and more technology not just in our daily lives but increasingly in our workplaces.
Combining tech and touch
These are exciting times. Technology is a great enabler of innovation and progress and the good news is you don’t need to become a programmer or a data analyst in order to keep up.
Rapelang Rabana, tech entrepreneur and Founder of Rekindle Learning, believes staying relevant is a question of rethinking your perspective on technology. She has built a successful digital learning company by understanding that winning businesses create solutions for people – and technology is just the enabler. She believes professionals do not need to fear losing out to automation in the future if they upskill and reposition themselves to work successfully alongside technology.
“The key is to develop ‘tech fluency’; you don’t need to be able to speak C++, but you do need to know how technology works on a basic level, so you can understand its potential and how it can be used to best effect. What blows my mind about the times we live in now is that technology – cloud computing, big data, AI and machine learning – is finally able to match our imagination in terms of the solutions we want to create.”
Africa is full of challenges – and opportunity
When it comes to imagination, there is a lot of that in Africa already, and room for more. The continent is beset with challenges from lack of transport and under-functioning healthcare services to sclerotic energy systems, and there are ample opportunities for innovative companies and tech-fluent professionals and entrepreneurs to step up to provide the solutions.
What’s more, while many developed economies grapple with the issue of shrinking populations, Africa is bracing for a population explosion. By 2050, the continent will have double the population it has today. Nigeria will overtake the US as the third most populous country in the world and a quarter of the world’s people will live in Africa. Many of them will be young and part of a growing middle-income demographic with increased spending power.
Looked at through this lens, Africa is the best place in the world to be an innovator at the moment: a large and growing population, countless big problems that need solving, little competition, and lower regulation that makes it easier to experiment with new ways of doing things.
Imagining a better world
How we each take advantage of these conditions is up to us. Rabana adds that in addition to working our tech fluency a good strategy to position yourself for the future of work is to zero in on the skills and roles that computers are less good at.
“Computers have solved a lot of challenges and made things easier and faster, but they are not good at tasks like negotiating and selling, conceptual design or strategic thinking. They can’t cope well with ambiguity and uncertainty or make good judgements and trade-offs. They lack empathy. While people can’t compete with the processing power and speed of computers, we do still have the upper-hand when it comes to defining problems and asking the right questions for computers to solve.”
This, crucially, is where tech and the human touch come together in order to build a better world. The people that have deep industry experience – in say, law or healthcare – who then go on the journey of building their tech fluency are actually in the best position. They will have an understanding of customers’ needs and the real problems that need solving – and how technology can be applied to those challenges.
“The most powerful combination is being strong in the skills that are unique to humans and having a solid understanding of how technology can be harnessed to solve problems or make things better,” concludes Rabana.
Abu Addae is the co-founder and CEO of LifeCheq, a fintech company that helps clients navigate their most important life decisions with a focus on finance, career and business. For further info visit www.lifecheq.co.za