On the way to world-leading digital expertise

According to the government digitalization strategy, Sweden should be number one in the world at exploiting the opportunities digitalization offers. A shortage of world-leading digital expertise is said to be one of the reasons we are lagging behind. But what is world-leading digital expertise and how do we acquire this?

The Ministry of Infrastructure and the Ministry of Education have jointly tasked the Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ) and Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth with investigating the concept and how this should be measured and monitored from 2019-2022. As a first step, we at KTH have helped by investigating how the concept of world-leading digital expertise should be defined. This proved to be far more complicated than we had imagined.

Our definition spans nine different dimensions; the knowledge you possess (broad knowledge, in-depth knowledge, general education and domain knowledge), what skills and capabilities you have, what 21st Century skills you possess, your disposition towards or sense of taking responsibility, your flexibility and capacity for development, and what practically reflected experience you have. From reading literature about and interviews with people who recruit new employees and for universities, it can be said that the demands on what can be expected of you are so extensive that the idea of renaissance man or woman springs to mind unbidden, in other words, a multiskilled polymath.

How then, can we be able to measure, verify and even certify perhaps, such expertise and can in-depth expertise within one dimension compensate for shallower expertise within another dimension? How important is it to possess a unique expertise profile – if many people acquire the same expertise, you are perhaps no long unique in being world-leading? Or should the label world-leading digital expertise be a quality that a whole group of people can be assessed as being able to attain, rather than single individuals.

On 28 April, we presented the work we have done at a digital conference and the report itself will be available in the near future. The question of how Sweden can become number one in the world at exploiting the opportunities digitalisation offers has been given much needed impetus. Another question is what role we within universities and colleges should play in the development of world-leading digital expertise? What are your thoughts on this?