It is still early in the 2016 race for the White House, but the battles have already started to rage -- mostly with the pundits. And thanks to Donald Trump, the larger-than-life reality-show-celebrity-turned-presidential hopeful who is leading in two newsworthy categories -- the Iowa Republican Presidential Caucus and number of ways to offend the general population -- we have no shortage of campaign news to follow.
While Trump will almost certainly not become president -- if he does, I will eat my shoe whilst waiting for my passport exit stamp -- he is doing us a service by raising the visibility of the campaigns and starting the discussion of issues early.
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With this early attention, I’d like to see more attention paid to education and technology. To explain, let me start by providing a few statistics that, with a strong cup of coffee, should elevate your heart rate.
- The global population as of today: 7.36 billion. The global population at the beginning of 1900: 1.60 billion.
- The number of people globally that have access to the Internet in 2015: 3.08 billion. The number of people globally that had access to the Internet in 1945: zero.
- The number of people globally that access the Internet via a smart device in 2015: 1.64 billion. The predicted number of people that will have access to the Internet via a smart device by 2020: 6.1 billion. The number of people who had access to the Internet via a smart device in 1990: zero.
These numbers are staggering, and without a doubt, they indicate that the competitive playing field is leveling across the globe. Anyone with ambition, the thirst for a better life, and a smartphone and Wi-Fi can get an education and learn a skill. Granted, they may not become a neurosurgeon, but considering you can find videos for everything from tying a shoe to building a computer to online courses to teach yourself to code -- most for free -- the propensity for knowledge has never been greater everywhere.
The U.S. has lagged in education over the past few years, but we have made up for it by leveraging technology and innovation. With the playing field being equal, can we really afford to maintain the status quo?
Like globalization, the tides and the inevitability of another Kardashian reality show, we need to embrace education and technology as the tools to prepare our youth to become the next global business leaders. While we are making great strides in the way of classrooms, we are most certainly nowhere near where we need to be as a country.
What I would like to see is candidates discussing the following:
1. Smart devices in schools
To level the playing field (or just to get us on it), we need to make sure our youth not only understand the importance of technology and how to apply it to bettering our lives and our communities, but they must also have the access to technology as they would books, a school lunch or an overbearing P.E. teacher.
We need to somehow provide technology (tablets, laptops, smart devices) and Wi-Fi in every school and give students the ability to access information outside the classroom.
2. High speed Internet and Wi-Fi
The U.S. is lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to Internet speeds and access. This is not necessarily because our infrastructure is not capable, but rather that we have been prioritizing how to make money -- or more money -- from the system rather than how we can turn it into a business-fueling machine.
Some communities, such as the one I reside in, have the infrastructure but simply will not "flip the switch" to allow individuals and businesses to access the higher speeds. We need to do what is necessary to become the global leader in high-speed Internet access, and the lead has to come from legislators.
3. An unencumbered Internet
Much like the printing press of the 1400s, which took hundreds of years to reach its full potential as an influence in our lives, the Internet is still young and has yet to mature. The same is true for social media and our increasingly hyper-connected lives. For this reason, we must continue to prioritize net neutrality as we allow the Internet, and its billions of users, to guide innovation and its other applications to improve our quality of life.
4. Public school systems
The talk of the increasing wealth gap is a worthy debate, but the time has come to shift to a conversation about the knowledge gap, or the concept that those with higher socioeconomic status have better and faster access to information than the lower-status segments, which contributes to a significant gap in knowledge between these segments. This gap will continue to widen as poor neighborhoods continue to lack the support and funding necessary to provide technology to students and keep them on pace with those in more prosperous regions.
To put this all in perspective, consider that this entire column was written in a few hours with information ascertained with just a few of the 3.5 billion Google searches that will be completed today -- many from my mobile device. I am privileged in the fact that I have an iPhone and Wi-Fi access, but far too many poor and underserved communities around the country, and the children upon whom we are passing on our future, do not have this same privilege. They must, for the sake of our country as a whole.
If we want to stay ahead on the global stage, we need to provide our youth with the same opportunities and technologies that are increasingly becoming available to the rest of the world. And if Donald Trump were to be the only politician to have the courage to raise this issue and support it, he may just earn my support.
Well, let’s just say I won’t flee to another country just yet.
What do you think? What are the important business issues you would like to hear your candidates discuss? Share them in the comments section below.