19 Nov 2019

Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl: Celebrating 20 years of technological growth, preparing the world of tomorrow

DIGITALEUROPE has just celebrated its 20th birthday. A big thank you to all of you who came to celebrate us!

To some, 20 years might not sound like a long time. In the world of technology and digital innovation, however, things can change immensely in the span of two decades.

When I first entered this industry, I started working for IBM and I was selected for the Giraffe talent programme. We were a small team of selected young students who had to teach employees of big companies and institutions how to use a PC and give them the skills of a “PC driver’s licence”. We had to learn all the manuals and at that time both IBM and Microsoft had a package on Windows; WordPro and Word, Outlook and Lotus Notes, 1-2-3 and Excel etc., and programmes such as Excel, an electronic sheet that could calculate for people, were like black magic to most people.

It’s mind-blowing how much has happened in the last 20 years. Nowadays, for young people, having a mobile phone seems natural. Do you remember what a mobile phone looked like in 1999? It looked like a suitcase! Social media is normal for the young generation, but none of the platforms existed 20 years ago either. The ’90s were the era of digital cameras, mp3 players and the Backstreet Boys, and 1999 marked the beginning of technologies such as WiFi and Bluetooth. That’s when the first Blackberry entered the market, too.

Back then, we talked about gadgets and electronics. Now, in 2019, we have robotics and artificial intelligence on top of our agenda. It might be more complex and less “fun” than the top trends of 1999, but this is, nonetheless, what creates the world of today.

Cybersecurity has also come at the centre stage, as highlighted by our excellent 20th Anniversary keynote speaker, Estonian MEP and cybersecurity expert, Marina Kaljurand. The first nation-wide cyber attacks in Estonia happened when Ms Kaljurand was a diplomat, so she learnt first-hand how dangerous these can actually be. I fully agree with her in that the governments need to work with the private sector against ever more elaborate cyber threats and collaborate to swiftly facilitate both ad hoc combating and overall prevention.

We must not forget about digital skills training as a key factor in making Europe and its society more competitive on the global labour market. Granted, European workforce urgently needs adequate reskilling and upskilling, but we have to ensure that our youth is ready for this digital shift as well.

Here comes the passionate and talented Dee Saigal, who also shared her insights during the DIGITALEUROPE Anniversary. Dee, the CEO and Co-founder of the educational platform Erase All Kittens, emphasised that inclusion in the STEM education is crucial. I echo her words when I say that we ought to empower young girls and assure them that they are perfectly capable not only to obtain digital skills such as coding, but also to create stellar careers in the ICT sector in the future.

AI, digital skills, cybersecurity are the trends of today. What new technologies and digital inventions will have the biggest impact? Which are already transforming our economies and societies? Will Artificial Intelligence still take the lead? Will it be the Internet of Things? Quantum computing perhaps? Which will disrupt the world of tomorrow? We do not know for sure. I have no doubt, however, that a digital revolution is ahead of us and I look forward to DIGITALEUROPE being part of it.

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