Be.Brussels, Be.Ambitious', it's a slogan that perfectly encapsulates our city. Brussels is vibrant, international and entrepreneurial. Technology companies love Brussels, and have ambitions for the future of our city.
That future is digital, and digital is a byword for more efficient, smarter and the jobs of the future. In order to realise the ambitions of digital Brussels, two things are essential: investing in the technological infrastructure of the future and making better use of the talent available on the labour market.
Brussels is young, has a lot of talent and creates a lot of jobs. Digitising the economy will lead to far-reaching changes in the labour market in the coming years. The content of every job is changing. Often to a limited extent, sometimes drastically. There are a number of doom-mongers who predict that robots will take over our jobs. Some job profiles will indeed disappear, but technology will create even more new jobs. For every job that will no longer exist in the future, 3.7 new jobs will be created, according to the 'Be the Change' study by Agoria (www.agoria.be/bethechange). It is now a question of getting everyone to take action.
If policy is not adapted, no fewer than 584,000 vacancies will remain unfilled by 2030 in Belgium. 84,000 of these vacancies will be in the Brussels-Capital Region. We will have less need for staff at counters, unskilled manual labourers and cashiers. What our country needs more urgently, for instance, is nursing and care staff, digital experts, teaching staff, scientists and engineers. But new jobs such as mobility planners, consumer coaches, information filterers, data analysts and drone pilots will also start to appear on our labour market. In other words, there will be no shortage of opportunities for Brussels residents.
However, upskilling and retraining will be necessary, not to mention activation and enhanced productivity. One area for concern is the level of school dropout of young people in Brussels (the so-called NEETs), without a higher education diploma, sufficient language skills or schooling, resulting in professions with a shortage of qualified candidates. Sufficient investment in the rapid set-up and efficient operation of training centres such as the ICT-Pool and Technicity are absolutely essential. The programmes developed by these centres can respond to the needs identified by 'Be the Change'. We also need to pay more attention to NEETs by giving them their first successful and project-based experience, and then guiding them on a digital learning pathway.
55,000 Brussels residents currently work in the Brussels periphery. Continuing initiatives, such as Activa.Brussels, to enable this figure to grow to 75,000 in the next legislature, are crucial, because Brussels is not an island. Dual learning systems in other countries have already been shown to result in jobs. A number of successful projects have already been started in our country, but these need to be more ambitious. And we don't need to limit this system to secondary education alone. The higher education system in Brussels needs to focus on alternating learning, thereby developing into a professional interaction network between young people, education and business.
One third of the technological start-ups in our country are established in the Brussels-Capital Region. As such, our city plays an important role as an innovation and job creation engine in Belgium. Artificial intelligence, cyber security, 'E' and 'M' health and smartgov are just some of the areas in which Brussels can excel. Achieving the ambitions in these areas also means being able to rely on the most modern technological infrastructure. And the basis of an effective technological infrastructure is 5G.
5G is the fifth generation of mobile networks and is 100 times faster than the current 4G network. This is necessary, because we are all consuming more and more data; between 2013 and 2015, data traffic in the Brussels region increased eightfold. The fast 5G network provides solutions in this respect, and also makes new applications possible. The development of a smart city, the Internet of Things, intelligent traffic management, self-driving vehicles, security and other smart applications in governments, companies and families demands a more efficient network.
The Brussels government has indicated that it will raise its emissions standards, but adaptation will continue to be necessary in the future. To this end, the Brussels-Capital Region needs to have a coordinated long-term vision for the development of telecommunications infrastructure.
Technology companies are our partners in realising the ambitions of our beautiful city. Talent and technology are the two keys to success.
René Konings, Chief Brussels Region Agoria
Also published on the CIRB website
Memorandum – Elections 2019
For all Agoria's positions and recommendations for future governments, visit www.agoria.be/techmatters