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Technology’s Ascent in Education and the Workplace

February 13, 2023

Now more than ever, education, work, and technology are intertwined. The global COVID-19 pandemic beginning in March 2020, pressured educators, instructors, and employees to adapt to and rely on technology to perform their jobs. Worldwide, people now teach, learn, and work from home as these activities move from the classroom and office to an online environment. These changes have accelerated four trends among employers, employees, and students:

1. Successful employee transition to online work
2. Increased technology innovations in new fields
3. Advanced digital learning and remote classroom platforms
4. Game-based learning techniques that facilitate online learning

Before COVID-19, digital learning was already escalating. By 2018, U.S. higher education instructors said online courses increased to 44 percent from 30 percent  in 2013. As educational systems shifted away from the traditional in-person classroom setting, new opportunities became available to underserved communities both in the U.S. and abroad.

For example, the World Bank Group (WBG), the largest financier of education in the developing world, provides quality education and lifelong learning opportunities through technological advances. Using partnerships with organizations and governments worldwide, WBG supports “innovative projects, timely research, and knowledge-sharing activities about the effective and appropriate use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in education systems.” Digital transformation is also vital to improving government productivity. To undertake this change, governments seek cooperation and partnerships with non-government organizations.

The United Nations (UN) Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries also contributes to sustainable technological advances in the world’s 46 Least Developed Countries (LDCs). The UN Technology Bank provides multiple activitiesin line with the four global trends, such as Technology Needs Assessments (TNAs), Satellite Tech Workshops, Biotechnology, knowledge products, training on digital access to scientific research tools, and more. These activities allow LDCs to mobilize resources towards their country’s priorities and improve innovation capabilities, as the TNA process ends with a Technology Implementation Plan (TIP).

Virtual Learning and WBD’s Work with USAID

At the beginning of the pandemic, Washington Business Dynamics (WBD) supported its client, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in transitioning from in-person meetings and training to a virtual platform. The firm’s Private Sector Engagement (PSE) contract supported USAID with domestic and international support. The objective was to align USAID’s Private Sector Engagement Policy  with the agency’s programs in Latin America.
Before the pandemic, USAID staff regularly traveled worldwide to offer training and convene regional conferences in countries where USAID worked, but in March 2020, that expectation shifted overnight. That’s when the PSE team at WBD supported USAID’s mission in Peru to pivot to a virtual environment. The PSE team swiftly organized virtual gatherings, allowing the USAID Peru staff members to continue their work. The PSE team ensured that USAID’s work in Peru could thrive through multiple virtual brown bags and training sessions, such as topics on budget finance and how to work with the private sector.

The PSE team also organized virtual quarterly meetings and workshops with USAID’s Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) Bureau. Before 2020, time and expense often prevented key stakeholders from gathering in person for many USAID-led activities. f But attendance increased with the virtual environment. To offset one of digital learning’s major hurdles, one-on-one or small group discussions, the PSE team structured multiple breakout rooms offering more intimate engagement and the opportunity to network. As a result, the increased accessibility due to the virtual environment provided greater participant diversity, broadening and deepening the discussions.

A virtual platform does not have to stifle engagement. WBD’s PSE team brainstormed to develop ways to encourage participant engagement. These ideas included whiteboard option meetings, mural boards, etiquette guides, and more. A crucial aspect of a virtual platform is for participants to feel that they have a voice — no matter where they are. To that end, the PSE team created “mural boards” to give participants a voice and the ability to interact with online activity. The mural board, a virtual whiteboard where group members can post ideas, allowed the participants to determine solutions collaboratively and collectively, especially in the small breakout rooms for focused conversations. Implementing the etiquette guide for conversations also helped people feel acknowledged and respected.

The PSE team at WBD also launched USAID’s Cross Border Trade and Connectivity (CBIC) Program in October 2021. The program is developing and promoting inland waterway transport to strengthen regional trade in South Asia via efficient, safe, clean energy vessels. The PSE team designed an interactive virtual kick-off forum that drew more than 150 government officials and non-government representatives from Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Thailand, Bhutan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Throughout the year-long program, the PSE technical team designed virtual games and other creative activities that sustained the program’s momentum and resulted in a collaborative effort.

The transition into the virtual world can be challenging. Here at WBD, we made a seamless transition from the office to a telework-first firm in 2020, significantly reducing our carbon footprint while our firm has continued to grow and thrive. Whether in person or on a virtual platform, our team advances our federal, international, state, and local partners’ missions through strategy, analytics, communications, and supply chain and operations.

Author: Noa Farkash, Junior Associate at WBD, is an acquisition consultant professional, engaged with the firm’s Procurement and Business Analysis award with the Department of Defense.

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