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How are we going to equip our youth with the skills that we will need in future like multi-disciplinary approach to solving business problems, analytical and problem-solving capabilities, story-telling aptitude, verbal and digital communication?

Earlier this month, I had the privilege to speak at the Rotary Club of Riverside in Pune on the outlook for India and all Indians in 2021. We can be happy that our Army is facing the Chinese aggressors in Ladakh without batting an eyelash, our response to Covid-19 has been appreciated by the world and now we are proving our belief in the “Vasudeva Kutumbham” the world is a family, by catering to the urgent needs of neighbors and even faraway Brazil. And finally, the Sensex has scaled the 50K mountain and it looks like the euphoria around market valuations will also have an infectious beneficial effect on the Indian economy in 2021.

Not that we can blow the trumpet and pronounce victory-not for a long time yet! While some sections of our well-heeled investors and industrialists might pooh pooh the alarm bells rung by Abhijit Banerjee and Raghuram Rajan, we cannot over-emphasize the fact that protecting existing jobs, creating new jobs and upskilling and reskilling the youth and employees in the country will be the key focus areas for all policy planners, industry leaders and educational institutions in the months to come before we can say goodbye to Covid-19 and get back to our lives. The sad reality is that the skills we have been training people for in engineering and other academic disciplines are becoming obsolete with automation and artificial intelligence progressing at a rapid pace. The skills that we will need in future are many and can be broadly categorised as:

Multi-disciplinary approach to solving business problems

Analytical and problem-solving capabilities Story-telling and presentation aptitude Verbal and Digital Communications Abilities beyond skills empathy, innovation etc.

How are we going to equip our youth with these abilities? By giving them the “agency” or aspiration to have learning agility and manage their own learning and career management processes and using technology platforms like Coursera or Skills Alpha to continually assess their aptitude, choose career paths, embark on the skills journey, learn from coaches, mentors and peers and stay on top of the game at all times. And it is particularly important to use technology as a great levelling factor for the country because jobs will have to be created everywhere in the country, not just in the large urban centers, which have seen growth leaving the rest of the country far behind.

It is particularly important to use technology as a great levelling factor for the country because jobs will have to be created everywhere in the country

This distribution of jobs is likely to be the biggest imperative for a country that needs to rediscover its growth mojo in 2021 and move to a 8-10 per cent GDP growth for the next decade. Some stellar work done by Arun Maira, former Planning Commission member and Board Advisor to Social Venture Partners India on the future of jobs has shown that when reasonable quality education and well-paying jobs remain highly concentrated in cities, there will be huge economic disparity and potential social unrest with unrealized aspirations leading to disappointment and in many cases, desperation. Distributing jobs and enabling connectivity with physical, digital and social infrastructure is the only solution.

As I was finishing my session for the Rotary Club, a curious member of the group, Anuradha, posed two important questions-will the technology that has benefited the well-to-do have any real benefit for a world where billions of people are hungry, without shelter or medical assistance and safety and good education for their children? And in spite of millions of people engaged in philanthropy, why don’t we see real results? Both great questions, which we as policymakers, technology creators and responsible citizens of the country need to be answered.

On behalf of the technology community, I must argue that this has been a debate from the time Charles Babbage invented the first computer and a lady called Ada, the first computer programming language. The essence of good governance, in countries, societies and companies is the ability to use commonly available technology uncommonly well. Throughout the world, as indeed in India, information and communications technologies will be available everywhere and it is important for digital India planners as well as providers of new solutions like digital platforms and e-commerce to look at the real needs of the people and do for agriculture, healthcare, education and employment what Aadhaar and the JAM trinity) Jan Dhan, Aadhar and Mobiles) have done for financial inclusion in the country.

Finally, the role of philanthropy, whether it comes from individuals, corporate social responsibility foundations or large national and global agencies has to be to supplement and not replace the role and responsibility of Government. As exemplary non-profits like Educate Girls and the Lighthouse Communities Foundation have shown, Public-Private Partnerships enable visionary founders who have deeply thought through the scope of their work to discover the growth adrenaline of scale and ensure that the funds of well-meaning donors and impact investors reach the intended beneficiaries. Here again, technology can play a role and NGOs need to be run as professionally as any large corporate. There is a large canvas of transformation in front of us. Let us choose the right paints and get the picture painted!