Eurostat just released some interesting figures in its report Computer skills in the EU27 in figures. The most interesting figure is that while between 2005 and 2005 the number of Europeans in the 27 EU member states who have ever used a computer climbed from 78 to 96 per cent, the number of computer graduates as a percentage of all tertiary education dropped from 4 to 3.4 per cent over the same period.
Of course the data is uneven across different countries. large mature economies like the UK, Germany, Italy, the whole of Scandinavia, Portugal, Benelux saw a significant drop, while several Eastern Europe countries as well as Austria saw an increase.
Data is a bit old, but it witnesses an important trend. As IT becomes entrenched into everybody’s life, there is less interest in specializing in computer science and probably greater interest in mastering other subjects, where technology can be applied without a great in-depth knowledge, given the progressive industrialization and consumerization of technology.
At the same time, while 20+ years ago a European computer science graduate could still fulfill his or her dreams of designing computers and complex software programs, today’s harsh reality is that most technology development take place outside of Europe, and the European enterprise technology market is dominated by service players, mostly outsourcers and systems integrators. Furthermore, the former are being challenged by industrialized services provided by vendors in different regions, while the latter need more business than technology skills.
I wonder whether academic institutions across Europe have realized the nature and causes for such a shift and are preparing themselves. IT opportunities are endless as one looks into the role of technology in operational systems all around us, and to the major challenges that we have to face to make our way of living, moving, eating, healing, retiring sustainable. But is change actually happening? Are we equipping our youth with knowledge and skills that will make them succeed tomorrow, or are we still teaching them what is already past?