I think we all agree that there is a huge amount of untapped talent here in our region, so if only we can unlock all this potential then the future can only be bright for Northern Ireland. The digital world is becoming increasingly important and anything that holds back young people from accessing the latest high speed technology will only hinder their progress, therefore we need to ensure more accessibility both geographically and in all strata’s of society.
We Have Some Fantastic Young Talent
This is one of the key themes in an article that Jackie Henry, who is UK managing partner for people and purpose at Deloitte, wrote for the Belfast Telegraph today (3rd Oct 2023). Here are a few snippets from this excellent article. She says:
“There are daily debates and discussions in our local media about what the future holds for Northern Ireland.
“When those conversations turn to the development and prosperity of the regional economy, it’s generally agreed that one of the keys to success is the fantastic young talent we have here.
“Talent was a major theme of the NI Investment Summit, which I attended last month along with hundreds of potential overseas investors in NI, and it is right that we continue to shine a light on how brilliant the people of this region are.
“But, as a former chair of the Northern Ireland Skills Council, I’m also aware that there is a huge amount of untapped talent in our region.
“That talent could be unlocked if we can give a greater number of people access to the skills and training they need to have a shot at a career in one of the high value industries we expect the new NI to be built around.”
The Digital Divide Is A Limiting Factor
She goes on to say that: “A real limiting factor and obstacle to prosperity for many is what’s sometimes referred to as the digital divide. Being digitally excluded — not able to access technology, connectivity and the skills to use it — is a growing problem, which has been exacerbated by both the Covid-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.
“Digital skills connect people to social interaction, to education, to health services, to new or better jobs, to community infrastructure and government services, to consumer rights, and to democracy.
“It’s no surprise then that there’s a clear correlation between digital exclusion and social exclusion.
“This divide was brought sharply into the spotlight during the pandemic when lockdown meant schools were forced to teach children online. It quickly became clear far too many children did not have access to the laptops or tablets they needed to participate in lessons.
“Our firm (Deloitte) has an ambition to help 100 million people across the world to access such skills, education and employment by 2030. (They have donated 12,000 laptops so far through a charitable organisation).
“But we can’t do this alone — it needs a collective effort to ensure that the advances in technology are used for the common good — and that means putting people at the centre of our digital future.
“The local economy is evolving as NI takes advantage of global growth in areas such as business and financial services, cyber security and advanced manufacturing.
“It is vital that we have people with the skills to fully exploit the opportunities that are available right now and which will be available in the future.”
High speed broadband right across Northern Ireland, in rural areas as well as towns and cities, and more accessible digital technology for all, would without doubt make a huge difference for many young people and would help them release the potential that so many of them have.