Today’s young adult is different. Gen Z, born to digital-savvy parents and growing up in a world of technological accessibility, are our first true digital natives. For Gen Z, technology is as natural as oxygen, with connected devices prevalent within their lives since birth.
Unlike their Millennial counterparts, Gen Z have a realistic and practical worldview; they know that they have to make their own opportunities and be financially responsible. Industriousness, the ability to multi-task, resourcefulness, collaboration and entrepreneurship are hallmarks of this generation.
This blogpost will examine this generation’s social, cultural, political and economic outlook both regionally and globally, to reveal how they will hack the world to create a better future, powered by hyper connectivity and collaboration.
So what makes them so different?
To understand this generation, we must first understand the landscape that they have been raised in. To put it bluntly, Gen Z were born into a bleak world.
This generation have grown up through many brutal and harrowing global conflicts, the war on terrorism, the Arab spring to name but a few. And while overall conflict may have reduced since prior generations, this generation have unprecedented levels of exposure to the conflict in the world due to the access to media and technology, making them a lot more cognizant of it.
Climate change, global warming, species extinction and the finite resources are just a few of the worries around the environment. We’ve fallen into the routine of using far more of the earth’s resources than we could possibly ever replenish, and we don’t have a plan b for when they run out. The state of our planet is abhorrent and Gen Z hold past generations responsible.
Likewise, the economy has suffered greatly in recent years. Gen Z grew up with parents who lost jobs because of the credit crunch, watched Millennials graduate with Geography degrees that are no longer relevant and are now themselves faced with a housing market that is becoming more and more impenetrable to the youth.
Image Credit: Matthew Brodeur
With these grim factors at play, many would assume the youth to be ambivalent. But in fact, they are quite the opposite. While Millennials saw the Internet as a place for duck-faces and swiping right, Gen Z’s outlook is very different. Gen Z are resourceful, they see the internet as their secret weapon and want to use it to solve the worlds hardest problems. Gen Z want to challenge the status quo and fix the mistakes of generations gone by. Their outlook is optimistic, progressive and deeply collaborative.
At the heart of it all, lies technology. As we mentioned at the beginning of the piece, this generation are digital natives. They’ve never had to make the transition from offline to online, and have grown up in a world where “Googling” has always been a verb. Armed with this accessible, evolving technology, Gen Z have taught themselves skills online, moved away from the traditional means of education and as a result have become a lot more entrepreneurial.
A wonderful example of this is Jack Andraka. A teenager from the USA who used the wealth of information available through the Internet, coupled with his teenage optimism, to do what everyone told him was impossible – find a detector test for pancreatic cancer. Check out his amazing story:
Another inspiring example is that of Dutch youngster Boyan Slat. Appalled at the state of the world’s oceans, he devised a plan to clean up the devastating amount of plastic polluting our planet’s resources. Unsatisfied with the attitude of previous generations who’s outlook is “we can’t fix it, all we can do is try not to make it worse” he started a project called “The Ocean Clean Up”. Here’s his story so far:
Equipped with this knowledge about Gen Z, it is our responsibility as mentors, parents, teachers and role models to act as facilitators for this new generation and nurture their approach. It is the combined responsibility of government, industry and academia to address the skills gap that is being created in the face of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (don’t believe us – just ask the Millennials with their Geography degrees).
Let’s take a look at some of the examples from around the world as well as within the UAE of support systems that have been put in place to mitigate this evolving issue.
1.The Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation has been established to address the growing need for talented designers and innovators in the UAE and beyond – today’s students who will be tomorrow’s innovators.
2.Smart City University, is the world’s first open platform for decentralized education and digital skill development on the blockchain, accessible from anywhere. It’s presently being created by Smart Dubai to formalize and certify the skills people are learning through otherwise unconventional means, increase the number of people qualified for the new industry roles that await them and to enable people from anywhere to build their own educational path towards the future, fourth industrial revolution-world economy
3. Established by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Code.org is a nonprofit entity dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools around the world. Their goal is that computer coding should become the norm in a schools curriculum and given the same importance as say biology or algebra.
The above ecosystems are well poised to help Gen Z in their quest to challenge the status quo, harness technology to solve the biggest challenges the world faces and change the way we think and live. Their outlook, coupled with the technological advances means that Gen Z aren’t just set to hack the world…they’re going to rule it.