The Education Challenge

The Education Challenge

The Awards Ceremony for the 8th edition of the Global Junior Challenge, the international competition that rewards the best projects that employ new technology to innovate and promote inclusion in education, has just ended at the Campidoglio.


Here is the speech held by Alfonso Molina, Scientific Director, Fondazione Mondo Digitale and Personal Chair in Technology Strategy, University of Edinburgh, at the opening of the Awards Ceremony.


Awards Ceremony – Global Junior Challenge 2017

Rome, October 27, 2017

Campidoglio, Aula Giulio Cesare


Honourable President of the City Council,

Dear students, teachers, school administrators, parents, ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the Awards Ceremony of the Global Junior Challenge 2017!


We have been meeting in this beautiful hall for 15 years now to celebrate excellence, vision, innovation and, above all, the commitment that we make daily to educate and prepare the new generations for the challenges of the 21st century.


This time, however, we have contradictory feelings. We are deeply saddened by the passing of our great teacher Tullio de Mauro, whom I wish to honour right here under the statue of Julius Caesar, for Tullio was also a great leader in education, a person who represented the best that this country has to offer.


At the Fondazione Mondo Digitale, we had the privilege to work and dream together with him on the development of an inclusive Italian school, during a period of great historical value and quick changes. For many years, Tullio shared this stage with us and delivered the Global Junior Challenge Awards. Today, we honour his memory and his contribution to the challenge of Italian education. And we do so with the awareness that you – innovating school administrators, professors and students – are building the future of school with your projects, passion, vision, determination and unrelenting work, notwithstanding the difficult condition and the scan resources that are available.


Your work, the beauty of your projects and your commitment are absolutely necessary. They are powerful and concrete messages of hope that indicate that Italy has the human resources, the precious talent, to innovate and renew education, which is the basis for the present and future of every country.


Today, throughout the world, education is changing profoundly: concepts and contents, classrooms and classes, roles and tools. School is changing at all levels, as are regional and national school programmes. Education is evolving rapidly, striving to identify new concrete solutions to prepare our children for a successful life journey in the sea of complexities of the 21st century.


During previous editions of the Global Junior Challenge, I already mentioned the many achievements that characterise our century, an extraordinary century for the vast, profound and rapid challenges and opportunities that it creates, especially for young students like yourselves, who will continue to be protagonists for many years to come. No one knows what life and society will be like in the coming decades, we are living in an age of Great Acceleration and Exponential Progress, we are approaching Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity, and Edward Wilson’s Volitional Evolution. We are in the Anthropocene and the geologic impact of mankind on the planet, described by Paul Crutzen. We are developing the ability to modify human evolution in the very letters that determine our genome. Tests have moved from animals to human embryos and, notwithstanding the initial international criticism and scandal, today, it is accepted as fundamental for the progress of science and medicine.


All of this is a great blessing as it will lead to the elimination of many terrible genetic illnesses; however, it could also open the road to what has been called “human enhancement,” something that is far beyond the mere cure of genetic illnesses. The ethical problems that arise from these scientific developments are enormous and I believe that our education is still very far from adequately preparing us for the implications that will profoundly influence our lives in the coming years.


Not only is genetics leading us towards a “Brave New Word,” there also is a veritable tsunami of scientific and technological changes underway that will have significant consequences on our lives, like artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Everything, virtual and augmented reality, the constant increase in bandwidth and increasingly smart sensors. And many, many more developments that will converge, multiply and penetrate all aspects of society. Our organisations, industry, finance, hospitals, schools, entertainment, infrastructures and cities are changing, and all of this change is approaching mankind with the emergence of the first cyborg citizens.


The increase and diffusion in computational power or “non-biological” intelligence may be leading humanity, according to some scholars, to enter a new phase of its evolution and embrace “human enhancement” by integrating biological and non-biological intelligence, but how will this and artificial intelligence be used and integrated into our lives? Again, the ethical problems are enormous and our education lags far behind in its obligation to educate future citizens aware of the decisions and implications that will inevitably arise in the coming decades.


We cannot refute development and we must certainly celebrate the spectacular triumph of human intelligence, science and technology, which have provided us with a gigantic problem-solving capability that has improved the life quality of millions and millions of individuals around the planet. However, it would be an even greater triumph to witness so much new progress devoted to a holistic and ecological humanism that places individuals, the community, and the planet at the heart of sustainable and inclusive development. And a lot must still be done in this sense.


We are all called upon to embrace the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Objectives for 2030. These are 17 fundamental objectives that humanity could and will have to reach by using all its competences to implement the wellbeing of everyone and society as a whole. The fourth objective directly concerns the reason for which we are meeting here, today, in this beautiful place. It demands that we “ensure a high quality, fair and inclusive education and promote permanent learning opportunities for everyone.” This is the objective that directly addresses personal and collective growth, the need to prepare for other challenges, and the fulfilment of our goals during our life journey in the 21st century. This is the objective pursued by your projects, by your work as school administrators, teachers and students.


Today, we celebrate with you the birth of an innovative education, which addresses the needs, challenges and extraordinary opportunities that we have mentioned. Step by step, you are creating the basis for a new education.


The Fondazione Mondo Digitale contributes to Life Education for the 21st Century and promotes an environment dedicated to schools: the Phyrtual Innovation Gym. You have surely heard about it. The model of contents and activities, which we have created to nurture open thinking in young men and women, makes everyone a protagonist in the development of a better world. Moreover, we have launched our programme for an inclusive accelerator for self-enterprise, based on the concept of existing accelerators conceived to stimulate start-up development; however, our programme is not exclusive, it is not just for who already has an idea or an entrepreneurial team and is ready to face the market. Our interest lies in everyone’s self-enterprise as an advanced expression of Life Education that will contribute to help individuals become their own entrepreneurs and fulfil their life in the 21st century. This means contributing to providing individuals with the ability to develop, innovate and reconstruct their personal ecosystems to fulfil their lives, whilst interacting and collaborating with others, and exercising responsible citizenship. In this definition, a personal ecosystem is everything that influences us and allows us to be who we are. It’s a multi-dimensional, dynamic, perfective, complex system that includes both internal and external, local and global aspects. In short, it’s the system that produce the person.


On this basis, the implementation of a true education for self-enterprise led us to work on the convergence of three ecosystems: the personal ecosystem of each young individual who attends the inclusive accelerator, the project ecosystem of the teams working on innovation projects, and the service ecosystem that the Fondazione Mondo Digital is creating to support the development of the previous two.


We believe that the inclusive self-enterprise accelerator is a sound formula to help young men and women on their journey in this century of uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. We believe our young men and women will grow more self-aware of themselves and the complex world around them in their journey and help them to become protagonists of their own development and improve their communities and their environment. We dream of a humanity that can transform the enormous potential it has created into a reality that transcends into beauty and ethics. The most beautiful dream would be to see change in a complex world support a holistic and ecological humanism that places mankind and the planet at the centre of sustainable and inclusive development. It would be a dream to see a decrease in the fear and lack of safety that pervade the world and witness the flowering of peace and solidarity as a basis for a community of species like the Earth-Fatherland envisaged by French philosopher Edgar Morin. It would be beautiful to see our children and the future generations aspire to a fearless fulfilment of the miracle of life and the love of which we are capable. These dreams must be our motivation and aspiration, the meaning behind our actions and the final goal of 21st century Life Education.


Your projects, your passion and your generosity renew our hope that one day, not too far away, these dreams will become reality for the good of humanity and the planet. We can certainly affirm that your projects are rich and concrete experiences of Life Education that provide a wealth of ideas, as well as an innovative and solidary spirit, to provide for the well-being and growth of others. What better reason to gather here and celebrate the best of our humanity!


I will conclude, ladies and gentlemen, thanking all the people and institutions that have worked for this eighth edition of the Global Junior Challenge, dedicated to the memory and vibrant of the beautiful person that was Tullio de Mauro. I would like to thank Silvana Ferreri De Mauro for having been with us over these 3 beautiful days, the City of Rome for having kicked off the first edition of the Challenge and for its support during the current edition. I would also like to thank the 38 members of jury who donated their time, knowledge and wisdom to identify this edition’s winners. I’ve said it before and I will repeat myself today. We are all winners at the Global Junior Challenge, because we have all created this opportunity to celebrate excellence and human beauty.


I would like to thank all the staff at the Fondazione Mondo Digitale who has worked with great passion and overcome all obstacles, to organise this wonderful event. In particular, I would like to thank Francesca del Duca, Fiammetta Castagnini, Rosy D’Elia, Valentina Gelsomini, Matteo Viscogliosi, Deborah Cavallo and Katharina Haasis, for their long and tireless dedication day in and day out.


Last, but certainly not least, I would like to thank all the innovating teachers, dreamers and creator of beautiful projects for this eighth edition. You are the pragmatic idealists that our country and the world needs. Continue to image, innovate and collaborate for a 21st century Life Education. There is nothing more significant and necessary than this in our age.


Thank You!


Full Speech [PDF]