The Internet has without doubt ushered in the so-called Information Age. From a transformational point of view, the Internet has done to our Industrial age what the power-driven machine did to the Agricultural age. Using electricity and automated motors, new industries sprung up to define how societies in developed economies organized production, distribution and consumption of goods.
Obviously, productivity increased by having machines take on routine work that would have otherwise be done by human beings, with increasing levels of mistakes and fatigue. But even as developing economies struggle to achieve so-called industrial status, the goal posts have moved and now being industrialized is considered a notch lower than being digital or in the Information age.
The buzzword today is therefore about developing graduates who can work in the knowledge economy as opposed to working in the traditional industries. This does not mean we no longer require the traditional industries such as manufacturing, but it means that most of the manufacturing “know-how” will be unpacked and coded into pieces of logic that will then manage the manufacturing plants.
The jobs of the future, as currently evidenced in developed economies, will be about producing engineers who design, deploy and manage such “Information age” manufacturing plants. These would be the so called “knowledge economy” engineers.
Contemporary lawyers are already dealing with issues to do the online crime, software patents, digitally signed contracts amongst other knowledge-economy based matters. Judges have already been tasked to hear and determine matters that relate to electronic funds such as MPESA or electronic records such as “SMS”.
The evidence in such situations has to be carefully collected, safely secured and reproduced in a court of law by knowledge-based law enforcement – locally known as the policemen.
Medical doctors of the near future will be dealing more with our decoded human genome in an effort to prevent rather than cure diseases. Medical science is leap-frogging into using computers to tell us what ailments will hit us when we are 50 years old, given our genetic formation and our current lifestyles.
These are just but few of the dynamics sweeping across the various professions as we move into the Information Age or Knowledge Economy. The question however remains: how are the Universities dealing with these developments? How often do they revise their curricula to reflect these emerging trends? How often do they upgrade their labs, workshops and courses in line with the upcoming realities in the work place?
The obvious answer is that the changes in the work-place are happening faster than the changes in the Universities. There seems to be an over-emphasis by the government to continue expanding university education with little or no concern to what the students are being taught. There seems to be neither a deliberate effort to increase the number and quality of teaching staff, nor to re-orient them for the future demands that will be expected of their graduates.
If this trend continues, we stand to miss participating in both the industrial and the information age and perhaps be condemned to remain in the rudimentary agricultural age first experienced 1000 years ago by the Europeans.
Mr Walubengo is a lecturer at the Multimedia University of Kenya, Faculty of Computing and IT. Twitter : @jwalu