How do we get learning on track for the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

In this article, Clare McCarthy of Nokia examines how 5G connectivity and immersive learning tools such as AR and VR will be foundational to the future of education after the pandemic.

It’s been clear for years that teaching models need to change. Many experts feel that today’s schools and universities were established for the needs of a workforce in the 19th and 20th century industrial eras, and are not designed to generate the creativity and innovation required in a workforce for the 21st century and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Having students and teachers located in a physical classroom, with an instructor explaining topics, assigning and evaluating assignments, is an inflexible, one-size fits all approach. Schools were trying to change in order to engage with Generation Z students and address the need of 4IR, but the shift to using and teaching digital skills in education was taking years. Then the pandemic struck.

Lessons stopped for an estimated 1.6 billion learners worldwide. It became clear that relatively few could access interactive online alternatives, such as Google classrooms, because these options were only possible if students had access to broadband connectivity and a laptop, tablet or smartphone. The challenge facing the education sector globally is that high speed broadband coverage needs to increase dramatically to ensure students can access engaging education and learning and development (L&D) resources remotely. In addition, teachers need to adapt and rethink their learning methods, and both teachers and students need the devices and skills to use digital technologies.

But, how can we swiftly address these challenges and meet the demands of the 4th Industrial Revolution and the new kinds of jobs it is creating?

What are the right workplace skills?

In its paper titled 'The rise of the new-collar worker', Nokia Bell Labs Consulting (BLC) estimates that 70 percent of jobs will be “new-collar jobs” by 2030, and fall in to one of two categories:

  • New blue-collar roles - Technology will expand the number and types of physical roles workers can safely perform in an array of industries - either by using exoskeletons in concert with humans, or by using robots to remove humans from hazardous situations.
  • New white-collar roles – The use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will make some roles more efficient and sustainable if physical engagement is not possible, for example, diagnosing patients remotely in a disaster zone or at home during a pandemic.

Platforms for lifelong learning

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, as many as 375 million workers will require upskilling by 2030. Skills that are in short supply include data science and mobile web design. These skills are needed to work with technologies - such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) - that will create the new jobs over the coming decade.

The 4IR requires us to develop these new and different skills if we are to enjoy its socio-economic benefits. The foundations for these skills need to be established in our education systems and developed in the workplace. Consequently, higher education and L&D in industry need to address two criteria:

  • Overcome the digital divide to ensure everyone has access to high-speed broadband connectivity
  • Enhance learning with advanced digital technologies to develop rounded skills for 4IR future jobs

Overcoming the digital divide

To ensure digital inclusion globally, regulation and policy changes are required to provide incentives and funding for high speed broadband roll-out. Special attention is needed to ensure the children in remote and low-income areas in developing nations are included in the digital community. We explore digital inclusion further in our eBook, How do we create inclusivity in a digital future?

Since 2018, Nokia has been working with UNICEF Finland and UNICEF Kenya to build a multi-partner collaboration to bring internet connectivity and inclusive digital learning to Kenyan schools in rural and disadvantaged urban areas. By October 2020, the first 10 schools were connected using Nokia Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) solution, which is a fast and efficient way to provide children with high-speed and high-capacity broadband needed for remote digital education.

Enhanced learning with advanced digital technologies

Technology consultant Daniel Arya, who shared his views on 'Rethinking higher education in the age of automation' in Futurithmic, noted that adapting the current workforce to the 4IR era will require humans and machines to work together. Educational programs will need to focus on engineering, data science, software development, real-time augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) to work with automated, AI-driven 5G-based technologies.

To ensure the much-needed critical thinking and creativity, Arya notes that higher education must also embrace creative skills, arts and humanities. And it’ll need to reinforce leadership skills and support personalized training programs to accommodate different learning styles and those with disabilities. At MIT, for example, the Mellon-funded programs in Digital Humanities focus on creating computer tools for enhancing humanities education. At Bates College, a liberal arts college in Maine, a program has been developed to combine liberal arts education with digital and computational studies.


In the 4IR, digital technologies, 5G connectivity and immersive learning tools such as AR and VR will be foundational to the future of education and lifelong learning and development. Learning should be personalized and more engaging, so that students and workers feel invested in their work and gain greater satisfaction from positive outcomes.

But to make this possible, in the developing world, the digital divide needs to be addressed to ensure that online and interactive tools can be accessed. In developing and developed markets part of the world, remote and rural communities and low-income urban areas all require connectivity and access to digital tools.

As education is the vehicle that we use to accumulate the knowledge for the benefit our society, we need to look forward and get our schools and universities ready for 21st century digital era. A dawn of inclusion, creativity and innovation beckons for all of us. Download the full article to find out more about how we get learning on track for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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clare mccarthyClare McCarthy is leading our marketing that looks at how #5G and digital technologies create a better world. She has spent over 25 years in the telecoms industry, including many years as an industry analyst and consultant. She is passionate about technology ending the #digital divide and ensuring more inclusive and #sustainable societies and economies that will help our fight against #climate change. Tweet her at @ClareMc_Nokia

About Nokia

We create the critical networks and technologies to bring together the world’s intelligence, across businesses, cities, supply chains and societies. With our commitment to innovation and technology leadership, driven by the award-winning Nokia Bell Labs, we deliver networks at the limits of science across mobile, infrastructure, cloud, and enabling technologies. Adhering to the highest standards of integrity and security, we help build the capabilities we need for a more productive, sustainable and inclusive world.


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