Keeping up with the 21st Century

CAIRO – 17 August 2019: “The world is heading into the fourth industrial revolution. No one can predict how the future will look like, including the leaders of such revolution. That revolution may include biological development, genetic alterations, robot domination, and further exploration of the human brain.” With those words, African affairs researcher and C3 trainer with German development agency GIZ Rasha Hegazy started explaining to Business Today Egypt the C4 Skills, which are part of 21st Century Skills.
What are those skills?
“The C4 stems from the concept of how an individual can lead themselves, and how to deal with arising challenges. Sometimes, we can feel that difference between us and westerners even if we are better educated. The reason is that they learn how to manage their emotions and relationships,” Hegazy says.
The first country that started working on developing the C4, which had evolved from C3, is the United States in 1990. However, the countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) were the first to work on the C4 systematically in order to help youth fulfill the needs of the 21st century. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) was established by members of the U.S. business community, education leaders, and policymakers, including Apple, Microsoft, and the U.S. Department of Education.
Innovation – CC via Pixabay/Tero Vesalainen
It is an organization that promotes – among mainly students and youth – life and career skills, learning and innovation skills, including the C4: Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration and Creativity. The 21st Century Skills involves the C4 of learning and innovation, as well as other skills under the umbrellas of digital literacy and career and life.
“The 21st Century Skills is not taught like a curriculum. If given a high-tech device, an illiterate farmer would resist using it and perhaps think it would be a substitution for him. Those skills teach accepting technology advancement and means to deal with it. They are concerned with managing the relation between the individual and the machine, and the individual and others. Those skills will be common among people worldwide, and will be essential for teaching and learning,” Hegazy elaborates.
Credit: PXhere
The C4 is intertwined with globalization, global awareness, knowledge economy, social partnership, technology, environment, math, science, geography, history, and culture. In developed countries, those skills are included in employee training, teaching methods at schools, and psychological support services, she adds.
“The 21st Century Skills is skills of learning and education possessed by an individual who is fully ready to deal with life and different work environments that are becoming increasingly harder in the 21st century. The outcome is self-learning, effective contribution, and confidence,” Hegazy says.
“Eastern people are warmer when dealing with people. However, they do not know how to benefit from that gift. We are not able to create a work system that takes such a quality into consideration,” Hegazy regrets.
Hegazy has suggestions on how to promote C4 among different social segments in Egypt. “My idea is that women can acquire those skills through mobile apps even if they are illiterate. The skills can be added to entrepreneurship training targeting women. That is because the C4 will make them more aware of what they need,” she recommends.
“The C4 is learnt through very simple exercises. However, they give clear vision of life. There has been a greater emphasis on self-learning because the pace of science and technology development has been rapidly accelerating,” Hegazy explains.
“Egypt is very important to the world in the realm of high tech since almost all the international submarine communications cables pass through Egypt. That creates an opportunity for Egypt to host the hubs of global companies operating in the telecommunication sector. However, many of those abstain from establishing major subsidiaries in Egypt because they do not find enough employees who have the necessary C4 skills,” Hegazy believes.
“Many of those companies have conducted studies and realized that the best place to establish those hubs is in Egypt, rather than India. Indians have good English, and are quite acquainted with the C4. That is what I found working with them. Some Indian families even build businesses pertinent to app development and IT.
The number of mobile phone subscriptions in Egypt reached 91.32 million users in the year to January. (Photo: Reuters)
“In Egypt, openness to the world is missing among most social classes. It is confined to the upper and upper middle classes. The C4 is not just about soft skills that enable you to deal with people efficiently. The C4 are also concerned with leading oneself, they can enable an uneducated woman to develop her talents by using the internet to find material she can learn from. The promotion of C4 skills may not cost anything but the fees of the internet service. If we talk about the role of the civil society, it can play a role in that regard very easily,” Hegazy points out.
The Egyptian educational system is rather behind in terms of the 21st Century Skills, but some officials try to integrate some of the basic skills in certain projects, even if indirectly. The major initiative of the Ministry of Education that provided thousands of tablets to school students on which they had their exams can be considered an attempt to spread media literacy. Many scholarships by the Ministry of Communications, through its affiliate, the Information Technology Institute (ITI), involve what is still known as “soft skills,” even if the subjects are technical.
Hegazy also believes Egypt can play a role in further introducing C4 in the continent. ITI has developed South-to-South projects aimed at empowering workers in the ICT sector with a focus on “application of ICT training to concepts, ideas and innovation that contribute to the improvement of the quality of life,” as indicated on ITI website. Those projects are embodied in direct capacity building programs targeting both individuals and institutions, and establishment of centers of excellence. ITI has executed projects in Burundi, Uganda, Djibouti, Eretria, and Sudan.
“Speaking of Africa, the rate of employability [the possession of the necessary skills to work] is just 14 percent, falling from 33 percent. That is not just attributed to the lack of education, but also because of the inability to absorb new ideas. The drop is due to the increasing gap between the needs of the labor market and the available skills,” Hegazy says.
African women
U.S. officials stand with female entrepreneurs from African Women Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) during joint opening session of the 2015 African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum. [State Department Photo]
Africans have a great advantage. That is they do not discriminate against women. The highest percentage of working women exists in Africa. It is 63 percent against 21 percent in the Middle East, and 40 percent in Western countries,” Hegazy says.
The first industrial revolution depended on energy and steam machines. It was centralized in the West and was not meant to be transferred to the then colonized Africa.. The second was about mass production forces in the late 19th and 20th centuries. The third brought the central computer and then the personal computer and the web in the nineties of last century.
Tech Mother Board Computer – CC via Pixabay/LaurelRusswurm
The fourth revolution is built upon the third, but it is wider, deeper, and more important. The devices have become intertwined and intelligent in a sensory, biological and digital context that can change the lives of people, companies and governments. Egypt has the chance to be the main promoter of C4 skills in Africa, which has become a main target market globally.
The fifth-generation cellular network technology was piloted at Cairo Stadium during the opening of the African Cup of Nations on June 21, and the World Radio Conference that will be held in Sharm el-Sheikh in October is set to outline the standards and frequencies of 5G in the Middle East and North Africa.
The 5G is expected to be a main component of the fourth revolution, with speed and reliability that will make broadband accessibility everywhere and as fast as lightening. South Korea was the first to deploy 5G at a fairly wide scale in April 2019 and rolling deployments across the world are awaited within 2019-2020. Egypt may be at the forefront of African nations to deploy the transformative technology, but without the 21st Century Skills needed for the fourth revolution, Egyptians may struggle to catch up.