ICT must be used in improving the employability of youth
November 19, 2011 Editor 0
The use of ICT to strengthen youth employability in the developing world ought to be pursued vigorously. To be clear: ICTs aren’t the only route to improving the employability of youth, but it should be used as a key tool because of the anticipated growth potential and youth employability crisis experienced by most societies in the developing world.
Youth constitute more than half of the world’s population, of which 81 million are unemployed− 7.8 million more than the number in 2007− a disproportionate number as youth only make up a third of the world’s working population. No where is youth employability constraints worse than in the developing world, where a majority of the world’s youth live.
This is a huge development challenge. Clearly, a deeper engagement with youth is needed to foster more sustainable futures. That must start with efforts to equip young people, a demographic force, with marketable ICT skills because of the immense employment and wider economic opportunities ahead.
Barely 15% of the half a trillion dollar global IT-enabled services market, which is expected to treble to between US$1.5 and 1.6 trillion by 2020, has been tapped, according to the World Bank. Developing regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa reap the least rewards from this unprecedented opportunity for economic growth and skilled jobs. The fact that they experience higher youth and overall unemployment levels should serve as an impetus for creating an enabling environment for ICT innovation and expansion. It is a paucity of ICT skills across the continent that cause it to lag so far behind amid rapid growth in the telecoms and services sector. This reduces the potential returns on ICT investment, restricts the quality of service delivered and stifles new investment across a continent in need of rapid and sustained new enterprises.
As the World Bank’s flagship ICT initiative for Africa, the New Economy Skills for Africa Program: Information and Communication Technology (NESAP-ICT), puts it: “The lack of skilled manpower is a binding constraint to realizing the potential of the sector. Even India which has 30% of the global labor supply suitable for the industry expects a shortfall of 0.8 to 1.2 million skilled workers for its ITES industry by 2012.” The onus is therefore upon Sub-Saharan Africa and other developing parts of the world “to boost its “talent” profile so as to benefit from this burgeoning market opportunity”.
That talent profile depends on the nature and quality of training and education that the developing world’s youth are exposed to. It is my view that a range of incentives and curricular reforms are needed to ensure that young people are suitably trained to acquire jobs in the ICT sector and explore entrepreneurial opportunities.
The current mode of education in most developing countries is outmoded. Significant curricular reform is needed, including the creation of advanced ICT curricular modules to supplement and be integrated into basic ICT courses for youth in schools, youth centers and technology hubs. By improving the curriculum in developing countries with enhanced ICT focus in the fashion proposed, skill levels and employability among young people will improve. Furthermore, these employability skills are likely to enable more young people to venture into entrepreneurial activities.
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