Sir Bob Geldof: We must teach children tech skills, not just how to use it

Bob Geldof has emphasised the need for education in digital skills, alongside the more traditional lessons in reading, writing and arithmetic.

Speaking at Microsoft's Future Decoded conference, the Boomtown Rats star said: "We need young workers because we're getting older. The country with the highest working age population will be Africa and they need to be educated on the right skills.

"Germany needs immigrants to be able to operate. We will need people coming here with skills for the economy and we have no plans to do anything about it."

Every year, Geldof attends the BETT conference where he is shown all the latest technology being used in classrooms, but that's not good enough, he says, because having an interactive experience is not preparing children for the future of technology.

"So what about the new schoolroom tech? It will remain boring. Yes, the children put on 3D glasses, but if that's what you've been brought up with, you'll still pick your nose in class and then fall asleep.

"We need to mediate the future. It's impossible to do that because we don't know what that is. Technology hasn't given us what it promised. We live in now. We refer to the past but for the first time ever, it's separated from the future."

Technology is so ingrained in children's lives today, he said, they take it for granted and although we can remember a time without Facebook or other social networks, they don't.

"[Our children] don't imagine a world where Facebook isn't there. They don't think it's some whizz bang tech'. It's something profoundly important and deeply concerning and we should think about it because what does this mean? What does the ability to contact mean? It's a hive society where we're touching our feelers all the time. It will usher in hyper democracy," Geldof said.

By being so accessible, he went on to explain, the internet is revolutionising the way we communicate because it means we're always in contact with each other.

"The whole notion of the internet is we're in contact with each other all the time and that is deeply strange and the very fact of that is it will alter without question the way we behave and how society is and we are."

Geldof said teachers are as confused as we are about what the future of education will be and so it's up to us to help get the word out there.

"We can't pretend to build or understand the future. We only have some filtered knowledge but what is exciting is we're in this cusp moment. In this world that has been made by Microsoft and yourselves and others, what we're building is this other consciousness," he said.

"The only way children can reinvent this country is by a different type of education where they learn how and what technology does to us. What does it mean where we all connect all the time?"

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.