Human development through technology

01 Jun 2012

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Information and communication technologies (ICT) are transforming the global economy and creating new opportunities for advancement. But access to and use of these technologies remains extremely uneven.

New Horizons - This disparity — the so-called “digital divide” — is, in large part, a reflection of deeper social and economic inequalities both between and within countries.

Those who cannot access the ICT services become increasingly marginalized within the modern world.

Young people today are growing up with unprecedented ideals and ambitions, driven by new technological affluence and widely bourgeoning ICT infrastructure.

We have, as a matter of utmost obligation, to create opportunities for them to give full expression to their talent and realize the future they yearn for.

While aiming at facilitating access to ICTs, we need to focus on developing competencies, skills and human capacities to respond to rapid technological progress.
 
This development challenge is not confined to the developing countries only.
 
The industrial world is also struggling with a yawning gap between groups at different educational and income levels, to the extent of possible exclusion of the entire sectors of society form access to ICT.
 
This situation is further aggravated by the dramatic increase in the Internet access and the consequent widening digital disparity between the richest and the poorest segments.

 
Three ways of impact

The privileged groups tend to acquire and access technology more easily and achieve exponential productivity gains compared to the marginalized who fail to capture share of the rapidly growing e-markets, economic innovation and concomitant impetus of growth.

ICT indeed affects Human Development in three ways:

a.       enhance human capabilities, human creativity and knowledge;
b.       increase productivity which generates economic growth; and
c.       create large employment possibilities, requiring small amounts of investment.

Turkey has a relatively young population compared to EU countries.
 
Young people aged between 15-24 years number 12 million + and constitute 16.8% of the total population. Compared to the adults 67.7% of the young use computers while 65.8% use internet.
 
These young men and women represent its next generation.

The country has a 15-year window of demographic opportunity to prepare today’s youth for the challenges of 2023 and beyond. By then, about 70% of Turkey’s population will be of working age.
 
This so-called demographic transition, when the population growth rate is declining while the working age population keeps rising is called ‘the demographic window of opportunity’. This episode is considered as one-off ‘opportunity’ in a country’s history.


Definition of success today

Young people of today will also form the majority of decision-makers and implementers by the year 2023. Turkey needs therefore to begin now to invest much more intensively in its young people to equip them with advanced skills required by the knowledge economy.

Quality education -- equipping people with skills such as an adequate cognitive capacity, critical and creative thinking, computer literacy -- is essential in a fast changing world.

It is argued that over the next 20 years, half the world’s professions, as they are currently practiced today, may disappear, with environment, advanced production methods, human resources management, knowledge management and IT becoming key growth areas.

Success in a globalizing world will primarily depend upon human creativity, human knowledge, human productivity, human innovation; human skills supported by the new information and communication technologies.

* Shahid Najam, UNDP Resident Representative in Turkey and UN Resident Coordinator in Turkey