At Davos, the South must pursue policies of education and digitisation

2019-01-24 23:28

As the world’s high-profile leaders from all walks of life converged at the annual World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, themed “Globalisation 4.0: Shaping a global architecture in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution”, what was supposedly not overlooked was the need to sharply focus on the vibrant and lively question: What implications does globalisation have for education and economic development for the Global South?

Thus, my aim here is to share some thoughts on how developing countries can harness technology in an endeavour to advance knowledge and skills acquisition in a manner that is mutually reinforcing to improve their economies.

With the “internet of things”, the fibre-optic and the microwave signals and allied technologies firmly entrenched globally as a means of communication, and the new next generation of low-orbit satellite, it is crucial to establish faster ways of making educational opportunities more accessible to disadvantaged communities to address developmental challenges.

Bringing the internet via satellite to education and training institutions could serve as a “game-changer” central to the eradication of deprivations and the creation of a future with responsibility and dignity for the millions of poor across the globe.

Since history is replete with evidence that most global trends originate from the developed countries of the Global North and reflect the imperatives of their economies and levels of development, which tend to serve the needs and the aims of the rich northern hemisphere countries, at the expense of the developing South, it is of cardinal importance for the developing South to strengthen synergistic relations and to pursue and to share progressive policies to advance their economies through education and digitisation.

Sello Mokoena.

These issues require the developing world to intensify the process of harmonising their policies and developmental initiatives.

This implies designing a systematic development framework within which progressive economic and education policies and strategies can be pursued.

Those countries that can accomplish such systematic planning are most likely to harvest the fruits of globalisation, it is argued across the globe.

Let me hasten to add that the work of labour economist Martin Carnoy is an example here, just as there was a way to bring East and West together, there is now, in the international order of the globalised economy, a gap to be bridged by a dialogue founded on realism and, at the same time, on solidarity, without which the population of the Third World, at least, will continue to suffer in poverty and oblivion.

He takes his globalisation perspective further in pointing out that in order to benefit from globalisation the countries of the South “must define how they will integrate themselves (in other words, a selective policy of opening up markets, appropriate industrial policy, an educational policy that makes it possible to integrate the masses into contemporary culture, science and technology policy capable of supporting economic growth) without being swallowed up by the globalisation of the world economy”.

However, there is consensus among development economists regarding the lack of any link between adjustment policies and economic performance.

There is evidence that adjustment policies on the part of developing countries do not always guarantee overcoming the widening gap between rich and poor.

Currently a few countries and individual from the North enjoy unprecedented affluence amid widespread global poverty and underdevelopment that may actually get worse.

The Third World countries and their problems cannot be approached holistically or as one country, since it is as established fact that the South is not homogeneous.

It is worth keeping in mind that there are no easy solutions to the digital divide.

The worst mistake, however, is to ignore the divide, because it is likely to get worse.

For as long as millions of poor remain without access to better education and to information and technology for effective communication, conditions of ignorance, lack of skills and poverty will continue to prevail across the world.

To paraphrase Manuel Castells, whose credentials as an astute observer of technological development are well-established, in order to succeed in finding a way to make the North-South relations work, the following prerequisite have to be satisfied.

The Third World countries and their problems cannot be approached holistically or as one country, since it is as established fact that the South is not homogeneous.

Therefore, I argue, whether with a utopian vision or with plans for preserving their individual observable or nuanced differences the countries of the Global South must address the North-South relationship in a new spirit.

There is therefore a call for the countries of the South to change or adjust their policies in order to benefit from the contemporary globalising revolution in an efforts to contribute towards the creation of a better world.

More so that the world is faced with the emergence of populism which is resistant to an inclusive world.

Mokoena (PhD) is a director for research and policy at the Gauteng department of social development, and also an independent educational telecommunications and communications researcher

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August 18 2019