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Why humanities are at the heart of global digital revolution

It important to align our education system by
It important to align our education system by including digital humanities in our STEM trainings. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The digital revolution is rapidly and silently sweeping through our industries such as finance, education, healthcare, agriculture etc. and with the emergence and growth of big data, Artificial intelligence (AI) and internet of things (IoT), we are starring at a transformation bigger than the internet revolution.

The major question is how well are we prepared for this transformation here in Kenya both in skills and experiences? In the last few years we have seen the government changing the skills and education strategies by adopting vocational skills as a way of tackling youth unemployment and also improving the skill gap.

Though this is an important milestone, it is imperative to note that majority of the skills we are learning today will be irrelevant in the next ten or 20 years if we have to learn from the past.

For instance learning from the last 15 years, in the banking industry it was near to impossible to withdraw money from any other branch except your main account branch and banking halls were the most important resource to the industry. Just a decade after, mobile money technology has transformed the whole industry.

Same has happened to the media, entertainment, and agriculture among many others industries and the digital trend will continue to transform the remaining industries as digital transformation adoption takes shape. This is a sure indicator that in the next 20 years technology is going to automate anything that is routine and therefore the skills we are acquiring today may not be of much use then while many more other skills will be created that are necessarily not technology oriented to help navigate this revolution.

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More often we have heard leaders globally and here agitating for the change of our skills focus from humanities (history, philosophy, literature, sociology) and many others to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) referred to as the skills of the future. In fact some have even gone to an extent of proposing that we either do away or limit the funding to these “useless” humanities if we want to prosper as a country.

Though this thinking may look factual for now as we develop skills that will enhance artificial intelligence and machine learning but it may not hold water in future because as the machines become more intelligent, most of the routine or hands driven work will be automated leaving behind only those jobs that machines can’t do to be carried out by human and mostly humanity in nature.

The good thing is that these routine jobs are only about five percent of human capabilities as unlike machines whose intelligence is mostly computation and logic driven, human beings have other intellect capacity such as emotional, kinaesthetic, social intelligence, creativity, imagination, ethics which are hard for machines to acquire.

It is therefore important to align our education system by including digital humanities in our STEM trainings to cater for the future skills gap rather than to wish them away in our endeavour to progress.

In addition, we should understand that unless we are able to connect with the human beings captured in the datasets, data may not be contribute much to human transformation.

The writer is Entrepreneurship and Innovation lecturer, Kirinyaga University.

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