Five minutes with Priya Lakhani OBE
Spotlight

Five minutes with Priya Lakhani OBE

A former barrister is bringing AI and big data to education.

Priya Lakhani’s Century is revolutionising the education sector by using artificial intelligence methods, big data and data mining techniques to improve students’ learning outcomes. It provides an adaptive curriculum and personalised learning experience, which allows learners and teachers to reach their individual potential, and enables teachers to pinpoint which students need help and to identify interventions in real time. It is the first learning platform of its kind in the UK.

“All businesses have to be innovative”

If they want to stay current, they need to look at technology and how technology is changing. If you are providing a piece of technology to a consumer or a business, you have to bear in mind that those consumers and businesses are using new technology every day. So, if you’re not thinking about how technology can be used to improve your offering then you might find yourself overtaken by a younger, more innovative company very quickly.

“A vibrant economy is one where people are truly engaged with what they’re doing”

It’s an economy where we are creating jobs and filling them with people who match the skill set and who are really engaged in their roles. Just 13% of the world’s employees are engaged with their jobs. That is really rather depressing. If you are one of those 87% then get out there and find your passion. The first way to engage people is to make sure their purpose aligns with that of the company. Then, look at your culture. Look at the company you’re trying to build, at your leadership and at how the company is shaped. I think a really vibrant economy would be one where we are not only happy with our GDP and employment rate but also where we have people engaged with what they’re doing. If you’re engaged then you’re more productive, more likely to think innovatively and creatively, and you care more about your company is doing. Engagement sets you up to be successful.

“Education transforms lives”

I believe that one of the most powerful things you can do in life is use purpose to be the reason why you’re practising what you are in life. For me, it’s about revolutionising education, giving a free and equal education to all. Education is one of the biggest areas where we can concentrate in order to help the world and improve children’s lives. It is the second largest sector in the world. Education affects everybody, and has direct and indirect impact on healthcare. This is my way of trying to improve the world.

“Where will the jobs of the future come from?”

I believe in encouraging people to build up their skill set. We need to look at the skill sets that we need for the future and match those skill sets with the younger generation. In the UK, we have such strong foundations for an education system that allows people to get the skills they need. However, there is still a lot of work to be done. I think we need to look at where jobs in the near future are going to come from. Tech is a growing area that will soon deliver a substantial amount of our GDP so we need to ensure that we are training young people and next generation in a way that will allow them to fill the jobs that tech will create.

“There is no traditional route to running your own business”

There is no magic formula that people need or a specific career path that people need to have experienced to be able to open a business and succeed. It’s important to be honest with yourself about what skills you don’t have as well as the ones you do. When it comes to entrepreneurship and running a business, you can learn on the job and there are lots of different schemes out there, such as apprenticeship programmes and colleges that offer vocational skills. People have to be smart, ask the right questions and go to people who have done it before. Then, stop at nothing to find whatever the path is that you want to follow, and go ahead and do it.

“The way to help is to leverage technology”

Data-driven decision-making is incredibly powerful and important. It’s transforming every sector in the world. Every business, every institution, every school – everyone should be looking at how they can make better-informed decisions with tech on their side.

“What happens after a start-up makes it?”

We have a lot of talk about the start-up sector but I think we now need to look at investment into growing companies, supporting those who make it successfully past the start-up stage. What do we do when those companies become so large that they start to look for an exit? What is this country doing to encourage entrepreneurs who have built growing companies to keep them growing and, importantly, to keep them here?

“A vibrant economy is about the people”

There are so many people with great ideas about how we can improve our economy and our livelihoods – we need to make sure we are listening to them. We also need to make sure that we are encouraging a diverse cross section of society into employment. There are a lot of strong forces working towards encouraging girls to take careers in STEM; encouraging people to find their purpose and arming people with the right skill set so that they can find the right career for them. Those forces need to be backed and they need louder voices.