The intersection of IT, government and business. Do you think much about that space, or place? I must admit I don’t, though this post about the tech talent shortage at Microsoft, and the suggestions they propose to solve it, put it on my radar recently. I also happened to have a very interesting conversation the other day with Gopal Khanna, a man who makes his living at that intersection. And he has lots of thoughts on the convergence of Education & Technology, and what’s needed to restore our position of prominence in the global economy.
First, some background. He was the state of Minnesota’s first-ever CIO, and last December concluded five years of service in which he helped save the state $200 million by standardizing and consolidating hardware and software acquisition. Following his appointment by then-Governor Tim Pawlenty in 2005, Khanna led the Office of Enterprise Technology, overseeing statewide IT planning, budgeting and program execution, and advised the governor on strategies to enhance internal reform.
During his tenure, Khanna started a number of initiatives, including efforts pushing cyber-security and shared services. He also served in the administration of President George W. Bush, was CIO and CFO of the Peace Corps, and is the founder and CEO of Winsarr, Inc., a high-tech start up venture focused on developing products and solutions for large-scale government data analytics.
Now you might think that a person like that would say we should turn to government when it comes to education reform and bridging our skills gaps. He doesn’t say that at all.
“The idea that government can make it better by spending more, or that teachers should improve their performance, parents need to be more engaged and students need to work harder is not the answer. It’s not enough,” says Khanna emphatically. “We need a new paradigm. The discussion needs to move from admiring and staring at the problem, i.e., determining who is to blame, to creating a new solution. And the new solution requires all of us to look at the future with one common agenda; national excellence.”
Khanna cites oft-used statistics that show our students lagging behind many other developed countries, particularly in science, technology, engineering and math, but says that while STEM might be the answer today, tomorrow might require a new set of skills.
“We need to think not of a new system that will be really good for five or even 10 years. We need instead to think of a platform that can continually evolve, that is continually producing young men and women who can fulfill the demand side of the equation, whatever that looks like in the future. And part of the point is we don’t know the answer to that today. But if we have a platform, a design and architecture that can innovate itself from within, then we can continually stay ahead of the curve, no matter the pace of change.”
“We need to think of a platform that can continually evolve, that is continually producing young men and women who can fulfill the demand side of the equation, whatever that looks like in the future. And part of the point is we don’t know the answer to that today.”
Of course the pace of change continues to accelerate, as we think about Moore’s Law, and other metrics for measuring the scale and speed of innovation.
Compare that to the start of the Industrial Revolution and the birth of the assembly line. Prior to mass production it took Ford autoworkers 12.5 man-hours to build an automobile. After? 1 hour and 33 minutes. But these changes occurred over the course of years, from 1908 – 1913. Five years in today’s global world is an eternity.
But Khanna says we can still learn some lessons from those early days of the Industrial Revolution, as the supply chain responded to the need for an increasingly educated work force.
“In the past America recognized the need for a different kind of educational system and we leveraged the technology of the day to make it better. We need to do the same thing today. What is needed is for us, all of us, all the stakeholders as citizens of this country, to come together to establish a consortium for education, and work together towards a solution. We need a brand new way of approaching this dynamic world we live in.”
“What is needed is for us, all of us, all the stakeholders as citizens of this country, to come together to establish a consortium for education, and work together towards a solution.”
Some of those new approaches will be on display October 8 at the University of Minnesota, as TiE Minnesota and the College of Education and Human Development at the university present the EduTech 2012 Showcase. The event gives education technology focused entrepreneurs and researchers the opportunity to share their ideas and innovations through a series of showcases, panels, and keynotes.