EDITORIAL - ICT training needed

In keeping with our social policies, access to education remains high on the nation’s agenda. Generous donations and state provisions over the last few years means that school-aged children in Barbados have more access than ever to digital technologies. This has allowed Barbadians to become increasingly competent and sophisticated with technology, though this comes with some drawbacks.

Barbados has always scored high in meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a more expanded version of the Millennium Development Goals. One such goal is ensuring universal education for all children throughout primary and secondary schooling, an area in which information and communications technologies (ICTs) play a vital role. With increased access to ICTs in lesser developed regions, it is hoped that the digital divide between information rich and poor countries will be narrowed further.

There are more portable communication systems than ever – along with timely donations from private individuals, corporations and governments. All Barbadian youth, regardless of socio-economic background, will be exposed to exciting possibilities in the realm of ICT innovation and business. The 2016 Global Information Technology Report observes: “We are at the dawn of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which represents a transition to a new set of systems, bringing together digital, biological, and physical technologies in new and powerful combinations.” This clearly has implications for how economies, investment and governance will adapt going forward as ICT innovations change the way we educate, do business, and share information. Indeed, young Barbadians have designed and developed apps that are highly used and popular.

We have no doubt that Barbados is poised to be swept up in an exhilarating era. There are a few matters that give one pause, however, particularly when young children have these ICTs at their disposal. Privacy concerns go well beyond spying and collection of information based on persons’ browsing and shopping habits. In an age where some hardly think twice about posting personal information about themselves online, privacy advocates know it takes very little for children to be open with online strangers purporting to be trustworthy, which can have tragic consequences.

Security is another area that must be closely scrutinised. More than ever, there is greater potential for cyber attack, hackings and malware. Last week’s global ransomware attack – WannaCrypt – caught many countries by surprise. Users had to decide between paying a ransom to access information on computer systems or no longer being able to retrieve their data. One security firm, Avast, said it found over 75 000 ransomware attacks in 99 countries last Friday.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is expected to revise and update its policy on mobile technology use for the upcoming school term in September. It remains to be seen how it functions during school hours; we would not be surprised if there are a few teething problems. However, the times outside of school must be policed effectively and thoroughly. Some advise that parents should be the first line of defence. While it is a notable suggestion, not all parents are technically savvy or even interested in learning the ins and outs of ICTs; some are even responsible for sharing or posting poor content. We humbly suggest that the expected government policy include vigorous training in appropriate use of technology, the best security rules and safety practices to guide youth in their lifelong journey in the use of ICTs.

The Information Age offers a wealth of opportunity for not only innovative solutions but industries and educational chances for young people. If we allow mobile platforms – cellphones, tablets etc. – in the education sector, we have to painstakingly spend the necessary attention that effectively teaches the best forms of ICT usage to our children.

Barbados Advocate

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