“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” – Alan Kay
There is a lot of truth in that statement and as history shows, including the recent COVID-19 crisis, the future is near impossible to predict. The best we can do, is learn from the experience and create a more robust foundation that can provide us with agility for a quick adaptation when facing new challenges. This is both, a big opportunity, but also a challenge for universities of the future that will need to prepare society and industry leaders.
Universities and academic knowledge have always had a major role in strengthening the democratic values and fostering citizens’ participation. Especially people with excellent competencies are those who had defined the path of development and I see that in the days to come it will be even more important to ensure that universities have a strong voice in time of uncertainty.
I believe that there are two key things that will shape the success for universities of the future, which are interdisciplinarity and fostering innovation. These two founding elements are crucial to provide an agile and open-minded approach, allowing to shape quick response to industry changes and the economic environment.
When it comes to Latvia, we have chosen to base our foundation in several core industries, including the IT sector, which is one of the fastest growing sectors of the Latvian economy. Over the last decade, IT exports have increased fivefold, and in 2018 alone employment in this area doubled. In the last 10-15 years, several global ICT giants have entered and deepened their presence in Latvia, and many new startups have emerged.
This means that Latvia has developed firm foundation for a sector with enormous potential. We strongly believe that cooperation between public, private and academic sectors has allowed us to identify and set goals, which in the future will have a significant benefit for society. For example, it has already allowed our country to quickly adapt and switch to a fully digital not only private, but also public sector and parliament in a matter of weeks.
It is evident that the IT industry is generating jobs and demand for skilled people at an increasing pace around the world. According to Talent Search People International (TSP International), three of the top 10 most in-demand jobs are software engineers, developers and data scientists. Additionally, we can see that IT skills are now a basic requirement in any field, be it medicine, biology, arts, and even agriculture and policy.
Regarding innovations, the history speaks by itself – whenever there is a necessity to tackle complex situations brilliant ideas have found their way to blossom in difficult times and, in fact, to a large extent the most useful innovations have been made in universities – vaccines, solar power, ultrasound and many others.
“We see that nowadays all the fields are somehow related to each other and in that regard, I believe that it is crucial that universities of the future are able to provide interdisciplinary learning opportunities, working closely with different industries.”
From today’s perspective I hope for a bright future where all great minds are able to come together, adjust to the current situation and work with enthusiasm!
The Minister of Economics of the Republic of Latvia, Janis Vitenbergs joined the government in April 2020. In May, the government approved the Minister’s strategy to reduce the consequences of COVID-19 crisis for Latvia. The Minister believes that export-capable industries with growth potential should be supported and adult education should be refocused. Also, it is necessary to ensure that funding for research and development, commercialisation and marketing of the results of R&D is available. Elected to the Saeima in 2018, chaired the Saeima’s Economic, Agricultural, Environmental and Regional Policy Commission as of 2019.