Pressure to Learn the Language
When you actually settle in a place there is a subtle pressure that builds month by month to speak the native language of the country. Speaking Czech is practically a political issue in a country whose language has as interesting a history as the country itself. The comment I often hear from Czechs, “why would you want to learn a language that only 10.5 million people speak,” could be said by someone from pretty much every country in Europe and Asia. To be fair, knowing only one language is unheard of here. Czech and English are just the beginning, and at least the minimum. Or it’s Czech and German, Russian, French or Polish. A little Dutch and Hungarian.
Speak a Universal Language
So while I sit in three hours of Czech classes each week, my head spinning at the challenge, I hope to bridge the gap with my shared language, technology. I have loved technology since I was young, although never encouraged as a girl, in college I cheerfully carried my punch cards to the data center, yes it was Cobalt and we had to code on punch cards. Although I headed in another career direction, law, I took my love of technology with me and knew every software program any of my law firms used, was a Palm Pilot early adopter, joined a startup on a wild ride (unfortunately months before the first dot com bust), and blog about technology here. I speak technology, and that may be the most important language on the planet.
The New Digital Divide
While most see the digital divide as a generational issue, it’s not. It’s a mindset, a value statement. I had lunch with a smart guy who told me how he makes a living at online education. Spends hours of his day at a computer, yet draws the line at a smart phone. He proudly tapped his indestructible long past warranty Nokia on the table. It’s true, they used to make damn good phones that we were seduced away from with pretty icons and the promise of continual connectivity.
I encounter people of all ages on one side or the other of technology. Everyone has their boundaries. As more and more of the world becomes the Internet of Things I have to wonder what will happen to these people. His resistance futile or am I the fool.
Read this hysterical interpretation of the digital age gap – I am guilty of none of these things and my daughter better shut up.
A World Without Technology
Even in the apocalyptic worlds without digital technology depicted in films and television, like the U.S. TV series Revolution, humanity seems to find a way to gather together enough technology to blow each other up. Hell, fire is technology, especially in the wilderness.
Yet, technology has been a game changer for poor countries and disempowered people. The Rev. J. Kabamba Kiboko, the first woman ordained in the Southern Congo Conference, understands the power of technology.
“My cousin, a villager in Congo, cannot even write, cannot even read, but she has a cell phone,” she said. “That is powerful.”
At Game Changers Summit, a conference on using information and communications technology for development, Revi Stering, whose work with NetHope centers on gender inequity in technology, reminded us that technology is considered so empowering there are examples of villages barring women from using phones or punishing them for using them too much.
“Women have been killed for using technology.”
I worry for the citizens distanced from technology, which has opened up so many opportunities for developing countries and individual enterprise. Only an apocalyptic event will stop the bullet train of progress, and what happens to those who don’t get on?
One of two startling projections in the World Bank’s “World Development Report,” released last week:
The probability of certain jobs’ nullification-via-technology is extremely high. Most likely to be affected, according to the report: agricultural jobs, clerical jobs, and service industry jobs.
Is Technology the Answer to the Technology Gap?
The U.S. is, by design or sheer bad management, not prepared to supply the talent of the future.
Not only is the U.S. not skilling up the next generation of workers, there is a wave of former middle class Boomers, who lost industrial jobs and don’t have the technology skills to get back into today’s market. If the issue is ignored, it will create a permanent underclass at two ends of the population.
Here in the Czech Republic there is a generation of women whose transition from a communist economy did not include an upgrade of their technology skills. These women, in their fifties or older, find it difficult to sustain employment in this highly transitional economy. There are limited resources to address their technology skills. Organizations like Czechitas work to find ways to support women in this demographic.
The World Economic Forum thinks that technology is the solution and highlighted the companies that are filling in the grid.
At the ‘Summer Davos’ World Economic Forum last year in China, the “employment and skills: discussion confirmed language as the largest barrier to online learning for the majority of the world’s population. The group discussed the opportunity to leverage technology to create a universal language that could break down the linguistic communication gap. Top Seven Gaps in Education and Learning that Need to be Addressed over the Next Decade
Learning online doesn’t have to be fancy. I am a huge fan of the University of YouTube. Whenever I need to learn a new tip or trick, optimize my phone, or learn how to draw a box (for my book cover), you can find it on YouTube. I even set up a training program on Word and Excel on YouTube for my technically challenged partner.
So, to the technically challenged, or to those who struggle to learn another language, hop online and learn how to speak technology.
WebSummit 2015 had an entire track on education online. My lunch companion is staking his economic future on the industry. It’s worth a look from both sides of the equation, teacher and student. Next week – ONLINE EDUCATION – WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME.