Interview: Mariana Costa
How is digitalisation affecting Peruvian workers?
MARIANA COSTA: Laboratoria has two founding objectives that are tightly linked to the needs of the labour market on one hand and the private sector on the other.
The first involves the provision of technical skills and talent to Peru’s workforce, especially to women. During the past few decades, both Peru and the whole of Latin America have not sufficiently valued technical skills. Driven in part by the needs of the so-called knowledge economy, fast and dramatic changes to production processes have made these hard and technical skills indispensable in joining the labour market. I believe that all large corporations will, at some point, turn into technology companies regardless of their sector, as the development of technology becomes a significant part of their core business. Relying solely on technology outsourcing is no longer enough for companies. Most medium and large firms are starting to develop their own applications and digital products internally as well, as they realise that with increasingly digital clients, consolidating this expertise in house is crucial for their survival. Amid these changes, we need qualified workers who can design and build such technologies.
Second, we sought to partially reduce the deficiencies in our tertiary education system and, more generally, to solve challenges faced by the education system in adapting to change. Curricula and teaching plans are quickly outdated by the needs of the labour market, so beyond specific content, education should also be preparing students to become avid self-learners and adapt to a constantly changing world.
While access to technical degrees has increased recently, it is not necessarily the case that the quality of coursework or graduation rates have also improved. Thus, it is rather difficult for most of them to find a workplace in which they can build a long and successful career. In addition, university qualifications and traditional degrees seem to be losing relevance as the only path to a successful career. This is particularly evident in ICT and programming, where self-learning is highly regarded and employers increasingly look for knowledge and capabilities, rather than for specific degrees.
What are the advantages of gender parity in ICT?
COSTA: In most countries there is a significant mismatch between the supply and demand of labour skills. This problem is especially acute in ICT, where there has been a chronic shortage of software developers. Peru and Latin America are no exception to this global trend. If finding software developers has been a challenging task, recruiting female developers has long been almost impossible. This industry has suffered from stereotypes that have kept women away for over 20 years.
Those in charge of designing technology are creating our future, and they will shape these tools – and, thus, our future – to their views and needs. This future, should meet the needs of women and men in equal measure, and for that to happen, women must participate in the process of designing new technologies.
How can Peru bridge the ICT gap between regions?
COSTA: The public and private sectors should collaborate to close this gap. The pace of change will only accelerate, and the more Peru lags behind, the more difficult it will be to catch up. Mobile phone and internet penetration rates in Lima and other large cities are very high, and most residents of these areas are classified as digital users. Given such a large pool of potential customers, most companies in banking, retail, insurance and hospitality are quickly adapting to client needs.
The situation is different in less densely populated areas, where the lack of ICT infrastructure and limited access to digital services limits the impact technology can have in fostering socio-economic development. Prioritising investment in digital infrastructure will present the people in these regions with a unique opportunity to use these technologies to tackle deeply rooted socio-economic problems like anaemia and illiteracy.
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