Submitted by Stewart Harrison, Head of Physics, Bayside Secondary School Gibraltar, a CyberCenturion Team Leader and a Trustee of the Gibraltar Digital Skills Foundation
‘You must be the change you want to see in the world.’ Mahatma Gandhi
With the increased importance of technology in society, digital literacy is gaining recognition as the most valuable tool for lifelong learning. As citizens of a global society, the influence of social media, technology, and online resources is wide-ranging. Our children are accessing technology and developing skills at an increasingly younger age and an accelerated rate. Technology is integrated in daily living, and likewise at school technological education is starting earlier, with digital literacy being essential to school success as well as later in life. For adults, the ever-evolving tech world can either help them succeed or hold them back. Therefore, teaching and improvement should continue throughout life to support personal and career growth. And with this, the Gibraltar Digital Skills Foundation was formed, made up of nine trustees from the public and private sector. In February 2020 the Gibraltar Digital Skills Foundation (GDSF) held it’s launch event, promoting new and exciting ways to develop digital skills within our community.
The event commenced with the Minister for Digital and Financial Services the Hon Albert Isola, HM Government of Gibraltar presenting fifteen iDEA (Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award) awards to young learners between the ages of 8 to 16. This was followed by a fireside chat with young Gibraltarian Aaron Baw, a software engineer for Apple, whose journey started by being part of Gibraltar’s winning team in the UK competition CyberCenturion. Gibraltar’s own Digital Skills challenge, Rock Defenders, was showcased with guests pitting their skills to solve the puzzles within. The future looked bright with so many new and innovative initiatives ready to go, from Microsoft Office courses for prison inmates to an App design competition for local school students.
The Coronavirus pandemic has caused much disruption but has also portrayed how essential digital technologies are to our everyday lives. We have worked from home and communicated through technology. Shopped for groceries and educated our children online. There is no doubt that life as we knew it will never return. The sooner we recognise that change is inevitable, the sooner we look for the potential these changes will have on us.
Task Force Future is looking forward to a brighter future for Gibraltar, and the Foundation will play its part in this. Our aims and objectives will not change, they have just become more relevant than ever before. The work done over the past five years leading to the creation of the GDSF is now even more applicable. We look to developing a Digital Skills Strategy for Gibraltar, ensuring opportunities are created for all citizens. Businesses will need to digitalise to thrive and workers upskill for the digital age. Professional pathways need to be created for the young (and not so young) to take up careers in the technology sector. Inevitably, new opportunities will open, so we must promote an entrepreneurship attitude to embrace them.
We look forward to events such as the UK National Cyber Awards in September, where one of our local comprehensive schools has been nominated for the ‘Cyber School 2020’ award. Look out for the UK Police’s cyber competition, Matrix Challenge, where one of our school students has made it to the finals after competing against 65,000 other youngsters. We will also launch Rock Defenders which will be undertaken by over 1,000 young learners across our comprehensive schools. Partnerships formed with local private companies will be offering internships, work placements and support current and future initiatives being launched by the Foundation.
Gibraltar is a unique place, agile and energetic, quick to adapt and ready to face any challenge. We have seen our society come together during these hard times, and with the right direction and strategy, it can emerge as a Digital Skills superpower. It has all the ingredients, the skills, the people, the mindset, the reputation and the infrastructure. We must see the change we want, and if we can see it, we can make it happen.