Dr Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation.
(Images: Rockefeller Foundation)
• The Rockefeller Foundation
Kenya, Nairobi office
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Africa has the youngest population in the world, yet they are mostly unemployed or underemployed, even those who are educated. This, experts believe, is because their skills do not equip them for the modern jobs market, where information communication technology (ICT) skills are in high demand.
According to African Economic Outlook’s 2012 report there are almost 200-million people on the continent between the ages of 15 and 24, about 60% of whom are unemployed; by 2045, the number of African youth is expected to reach 400-million.
To help get those young people onto the employment ladder, The Rockefeller Foundation has announced it will invest $100-million (R969-million) in “catalyzing sustainable ICT-enabled employment opportunities and skills training for high potential but disadvantaged African youth, thereby generating social and economic opportunities for those employed, their families and communities” through Digital Jobs Africa.
The latter will focus on youth and employment in six African countries through, skills training and the growth of digital job opportunities. The initiative plans to reach a million people within seven years.
Foundation president Dr Judith Rodin explains the programme: “We will leverage the rising demand from African-based organisations, government moving to e-based government using digital tools, and multinational corporations to create sustainable employment opportunities, which is a win-win for all, cutting costs in many cased by 40%”.
Digital Jobs Africa will work in Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa. These countries were identified for the programme based on high levels of unemployment in the particular country, the growth of the ICT sector, and the potential to create jobs. They were chosen, says the foundation, as “they all have dynamic and growing service sectors that offer potential for continued ICT development”. Digital Jobs Africa will provide technical skills and soft skills to young participants, getting them ready to enter the job market.
There is a rising demand for digital skills in African companies, governments and multinational corporations. Digital Jobs Africa seeks to work with local organisations as well as support an enabling environment that can be co-ordinated by governments and businesses without the involvement of philanthropy.
Rodin says: “Digital Jobs Africa recognises the enormous talent pool of young people in Africa who lack access to quality sustainable employment opportunities and seeks to catalyse opportunities to close that gap.”
In the modern world, digital skills have become a requirement for employment and ICT enabled jobs. By developing these skills, it will help the youth for employment in the future. The Rockefeller Foundation believes that innovative, energetic and better informed African youth have the potential to drive economic growth and development.
Digital Jobs Africa will be steered out of the foundation’s Nairobi office and will identify other opportunities by working and partnering with the private sector and other stakeholders. Strive Masiyiwa, the executive chairman of Econet Wireless and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Rockefeller Foundation says: “The Rockefeller Foundation’s Digital Jobs Africa initiative will give businesses in Africa the opportunity to employ a talented, skilled and developed workforce right here in our own cities.”
According to the foundation a digital job can be distinguished from other jobs such as manufacturing because the product produced by a digital worker is information or knowledge as opposed to physical objects or services. Digital jobs exist in almost every sector including health, agriculture, education, finance and media.
The Networked Readiness Index Report 2013 (NRI), which comes out of the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report, measures the preparedness of an economy to use ICT to boost competitiveness and well-being. According to the index, Europe remains the leader in the use of ICTs to transform the economy and society. Seven European countries were positioned in the top 10, out of 144 countries in total. Finland was number one followed by Singapore, Sweden, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, UK and Denmark. The US at ninth and China Taiwan complete the top 10. The NRI measures the degree to which economies embrace ICT for enhanced competiveness.
ICT also plays a significant role in the economies of the developing world. South Africa was placed 70th, with Mauritius the first African country on the list at 55th. Seychelles follows at 79th and Egypt at 80th. Other African countries in the top 100 are Cape Verde (81), Rwanda (88), Morocco (89), Kenya (92), Ghana (95), Botswana (96), Liberia (97), and Gamibia (98)
South Africa moved up two places in the ranking, from 72 in 2012. Companies in the nation have played a major role in the development of ICT.
Vodacom, for example, the mobile telecommunications company based in South Africa, promotes skills development and job creation to empower unemployed youth through its mobile education programme, which is a nationwide teacher development initiative to improve instruction in all subjects. Vodacom works closely with provincial and district education officials on the programme. It has rolled out nine ICT resource centres across South Africa.
ICT and education
One of the functions of ICT in teaching and learning is to enhance the development of student information literacy. According to the Association of College and Research Libraries, a professional association of academic librarians and other interested individuals, information literacy forms the basis for lifelong learning. It enables students to master content as well as have greater control over their own learning.
In Nigeria, application of ICT in secondary schools is on-going. The demand for computer and ICT literacy is increasing in the country as people believe that computer and ICT facilities are necessary to enhance efficiency, according to Library Philosophy and Practice 2010, an electronic journal that focuses on library practice and philosophy.
Although efforts are being made to improve students’ technology literacy, the numbers are still relatively low.
The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) has said that students’ experience with ICT in Africa is very low, and 55% of students on the continent participating in the first phase of the Nepad e-schools initiative said they had had no experience with computers.
Nepad’s e-schools initiative aims to broaden ICT knowledge and use to improve the quality of teaching and learning in African primary and secondary schools, with the larger aim to enable students to participate in the global information society. Nepad e-schools have had more than 80 demonstrations, in which each school was given a computer laboratory containing at least 20 computers. The schools were also connected to the internet for access to content and contact with the rest of the world.