Skills for a new age – the need for data fluency in the info economy

Skills for a new age – the need for data fluency in the info economy

Skills for a new age – the need for data fluency in the info economy
At the turn of the 18th to 19th centuries, the academic world was on the cusp of a long period of upheaval. Traditional methods of instruction – tutoring students in Latin, Greek, theology, and rhetoric – had been in place since the Italian Renaissance. The great force of the Industrial Revolution was upending the needs of society and, as a result, academia was destined for seismic changes in the content, quality, accessibility and delivery of education.

The rise of industry demanded professionals with new skills. Archaic languages gave way to the sciences and engineering. Rhetoric and theology remained, but the canon of higher education broadened to encompass the needs of the emerging economy. Even with these changes, it would take a further century to see the launch of the Harvard Business School in 1908.

As we look back on the first 25 years of the information revolution, I wonder if we have enough distance to see the changes that are being demanded by the marketplace today? Do we know the skills needed for this new age? Are our schools building the professionals that will power the next century of innovation?

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With regards to privacy and information security, I think the answer is unsatisfying. Not yet. We are beginning to understand what is needed, but we do not yet have the ability to produce at scale the number of professionals needed to handle data in the information economy.

The deficits in cybersecurity professionals are well known. Last year,a report suggested that 209,000 infosec jobs were unfilled in the US.

The numbers for privacy pros are lower, but reflect a similar deficit. Earlier this year, the IAPP estimated that new privacy regulations in Europe would create a need for 28,000 data protection officers in the next two years. The IAPP currently has just over 3,000 members in Europe, leaving quite a gap. Further, the introduction of A-130 by the US federal government requires a senior agency official for privacy (SAOP) – resulting in a need for up to 500 privacy leaders in the US government alone.

Clearly, there are tens of thousands of new professionals in the fields of privacy and cybersecurity that will be needed in the coming years. Which raises a follow-up question: are our educational systems ready to produce these professionals?

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Within the field of privacy, it is very clear that the profession is not emerging from a single discipline. IAPP research has shown that 40 percent of privacy pros have legal degrees, but large percentages within the profession have technical or business degrees.

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