Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)
Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)

Tech News: Could digital intelligence have prevented the looting rampage?

By Louis Fourie Time of article published Jul 22, 2021

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When once asked about his success, Jack Ma, the Chinese business magnate and founder of the multinational technology conglomerate Alibaba Group said that emotional intelligence (EQ) is his secret. He also added that if people really want to be respected, they will need “High LQ – the IQ of love.”

Whether we agree with this statement of Jack Ma or not, a key aspect is absent from his list. The world of today is not the same as it was 20 years ago, and the world of tomorrow will certainly not look like today's world either. Digitalisation has transmuted our way of thinking, feeling, doing, and living, and its evolution is so bewildering that change, which was once the exception, now has become the norm.

The digital revolution

No wonder that many consider change management as a basic skill for people in the twenty-first century. But I believe that digital intelligence (DQ) is far more important in our hyper-connected world where innovative new digital technologies are emerging with breath-taking speed.

Electronic communication tools have changed the way we work. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology are automating many mundane tasks and are changing the way we interact with customers. Blockchain is starting to transform supply chains and payment networks.

Organisations, therefore, have built digital strategies around these technologies, resulting in a digital transformation that fundamentally changed the way many organisations do business.

Who would have imagined sixteen months ago that grade one classes would – due to the pandemic – be offered online instead of in a classroom, that pensioners would shop online, that most of us would work from home, and that business meetings would be conducted virtually?

To be successful or just to survive in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), digital intelligence needs to be developed, which requires disruptive education. It is critical to the wellbeing of organisations that leaders of today take advantage of the digital world we have inhabited. They do not only need the awareness and knowledge of digital issues, but the insight and mindset to apply that awareness and knowledge. They need digital intelligence in a largely digital world.

Digital intelligence

A widely accepted understanding of digital intelligence construes it to be a comprehensive set of technical, cognitive, and meta-cognitive skills, competencies, knowledge, attitudes, and values needed to succeed in a world driven by innovative platforms and compelling services of the digital world. It includes an understanding of modern digital technologies impacting the organisation such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, virtual reality, augmented reality, social media, online collaboration, work from home technology, predictive analytics, and cyber security - to name a few.

But digital intelligence is much more – it means having the ability to identify and adopt new ways of working, finding new sources of value for the business, improving operations, collaborating, and harnessing the opportunities of digital life. It means effectively using digital technology, processes, products, tools, and services to translate digital data into actionable insights and achieve business goals using digital technologies.

Due to the technologies of the 4IR, a world culture change is occurring. Our communication style, lifestyle, economic practice, and the way we think have been affected by digital technology.

With digital intelligence, we have moved into a multidimensional digital space where information and knowledge are now rearranged because of digital technologies. We must decode, rearrange, manipulate, and display the information so that others can make sense of it. Digital intelligence is our ability to interact with an emerging digital environment.

DQ in South Africa

Digital intelligence, just as the “multiple intelligences” that Howard Gardner developed in 1983, should probably not be treated as true intelligence, but it certainly is a way of thinking about the knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviours we all need to operate successfully in a digital world and digital workplace.

Digital intelligence is a response to the cultural change brought about by digital technologies and refers to the skills and abilities of the “masters of change” of the digital era or Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Unfortunately, many people in South Africa are seriously lacking digital intelligence, which renders them unemployable and partly contributed to the destructive looting crisis we recently experienced. Our education system in South Africa has failed our young people until now spectacularly.

The youth, with an official first quarter of 2021 unemployment rate of 46.3 percent for those 15-35 years of age, are simply not equipped with the necessary skills and competencies to participate effectively in the fast-changing digital environment.

They lack a digital mindset, digital creativity, digital citizenship, and digital entrepreneurship and still wait in vain for the South African government to create work for them instead of creating it themselves. Without digital intelligence people are precluded from the increasingly digital world and digital workplace of the future.

What is your Digital Intelligence Quotient?

Professor Louis C H Fourie is a Technology Strategist

*The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites

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