Advanced digital skills and the key role of the Higher Education sector
The acquisition of basic digital skills, principally the ability to communicate electronically, to handle information and content, to carry out transactions online, and to solve problems with the use of computers, at the same time being aware of and applying online safety, security, and law, has a central position in a modern society’s strive towards digital literacy, given the ever-growing physical and social connectivity at global scale, the massive production of all kinds of data, and the plethora of smart devices, composing an Internet of Things.
As evidenced over the last couple of decades, technological advances are galloping at unforeseeable speeds and what lies ahead, in the not-so-distant future, is largely unpredictable. The strong comeback of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the enrichment of classic machine learning with the potential of deep learning, give credence to high expectations for a whole new spectrum of smart applications/machines, supporting and augmenting human reasoning and abilities, whether these operate in direct interaction with humans, or as components of other systems, or autonomously for carrying out some tasks.
‘What can thus be said with certainty is that the digital landscape would continuously evolve calling for advanced digital skills for pushing and harnessing the technological developments for the well-being of humanity.’
People bestowed with such advanced digital skills, cannot be devoid of a deep understanding and adoption of the ethics that should underline the deployment of these applications/machines, to ensure that the societal impact from their deployment will be fair, reliable, inclusive, transparent, accountable, secure, respectful to privacy, and thus truly positive.
The cultivation of ground-level digital skills should start from a young age, thus giving the reins to the school for the relevant induction of their pupils. Following such crucial induction at school level and bearing in mind that basic digital skills concern a society at large that wishes to be digitally literal, further enhancements of basic digital skills can be left to the individuals’ life-long learning needs in conjunction with continuing education provisions.
The role of Higher Education
In contrast, advanced digital skills are by and large acquired through higher education curricula at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and subsequent professional practice and continuous professional development, to keep abreast of technological developments.
‘The Higher Education sector has a key role to play in the acquisition and further enhancement of advanced digital skills albeit in strong interaction with industry and other stakeholders reflecting the current and future societal needs in a digital world.’
In this respect, undergraduate informatics curricula should focus even more on advanced problem solving by strongly cultivating computational, algorithmic and design thinking skills, primarily abstraction, problem decomposition, and pattern recognition, while AI, machine learning, data-driven thinking, and cybersecurity should have a place in such curricula.
At postgraduate level, AI-related curricula should try and accommodate interdisciplinarity by drawing students from relatively diverse backgrounds (informatics, pure and applied sciences, cognitive sciences, biomedical sciences, engineering) hence having the profile of advanced conversion programmes. Complex and collaborative problem solving, deep learning, human-centered intelligent user interfaces, big data analytics, AI and creativity, and data-driven entrepreneurship, are modules expected to be offered in such curricula, for advanced knowledge and digital skills versatility, catering for future changes in societal requirements.
About Elpida Keravnou-Papailiou
Professor and Departmental Chair at the Department of Computer Science, University of Cyprus, and Academic Coordinator of the CEF master’s programme MAI4CAREU in AI.
Her research interests include Knowledge Engineering, Artificial Intelligence in Medicine, Expert Systems, and Temporal Information Systems in Medicine. She served in the Governing Board and the Executive Committee of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). She is a Fellow of the 2021 class of the International Academy of Health Sciences Informatics.
About Department of Computer Science, University of Cyprus
It is the oldest academic department in Computer Science in Cyprus. It admitted its first students in 1992 as one of the first departments of the University of Cyprus. It has strong research activity in the areas of artificial intelligence, computer architecture, computer networks and cybersecurity, data management, graphics and virtual reality, internet computing, software engineering and theoretical computer science, supported by state-of-the-art research infrastructure (high-performance clusters and storage area net-works, cloud computing facilities, and virtual reality equipment). More information on the website of the department.
© Right 3 - stock.adobe.com