Why Kenya Needs To Shift Its Focus To Digital Jobs

Why though? Why is it important for Kenya to focus on and pursue digital jobs?

The reason is simple; there is no other choice! If you do not believe so, then consider this report published by the Rockefeller Foundation. The report states that African populations as a whole are growing at such an unprecedented pace that job creation is not keeping up with the growth. The report goes on to state that by 2050, 400 million Africans will be in need of employment.

The only way—the report continues—to deal with this is to leverage ICT for job creation and innovation.

Moreover, if you isolate the statistics and consider just Kenya, then the numbers paint a direr picture. That every year 800,000 youths enter the job market and yet only 50,000 get employed. Clearly, something has to give, and the best place to start is by shifting the focus to digital jobs.

We will delve deeper into how exactly ICT and digital jobs play a part in ensuring future job security but first let us understand in the simplest of terms what constitutes digital jobs.

What Are Digital Jobs?

The Rockefeller foundation defines digital jobs as the jobs created when you apply ICT to a new or existing activity or process.

That means you take any ICT skills you might have, whether basic or advanced and then apply those skills in one of two ways. One, you can apply your ICT skills to an existing job to create a whole new branch of that job.

The best way to understand this is to look at an example. A virtual assistant is a job that was unheard of a few years ago. That is until someone figured out that it was possible to combine the internet and secretarial or executive assistant work. Note that knowing how to use the internet is an ICT skill.

As a result, we now have virtual assistants who perform administrative tasks for companies similar to those of a secretary or executive assistant. The only difference is that these virtual assistants perform their tasks remotely. The virtual assistant can be in India, the company in Canada and yet he/she will successfully send thank you notes, call customers, call vendors and perform data entry.

Two, you can apply your ICT skills to a new innovative idea you might have to create a job, make yourself marketable and even create employment opportunities for others.

Again, let us look at a real-life example. In January of this year, Nigerian Ezinne Uko won $100,000 at Econet Media’s GoGettaz pitch contest for her i-monitoring app. The app allows shop owners to inventory stock and sales and to analyze the business performance in real time. She used her ICT skills to solve a problem by helping make stock and sales monitoring easy for shop owners.

Ezinne Uko is now a tech entrepreneur in her own right, and if her app proves popular, then she might end up having to employ people who will keep updating the app and making it better for her customers.

Now that you have a complete understanding of what constitutes digital jobs, it is time to analyze the five major categories under which digital jobs fall.

Types of Digital Jobs

i) Jobs in The ICT Industry

These are the jobs constrained to the ICT industry, they require advanced ICT knowledge and include regular ICT industry jobs. Examples include web developer, system administrator, and programmers.

ii) ICT-enabled Jobs Across Different Sectors

Almost all sectors have various tasks that can benefit from ICT application. It could be the agriculture sector, banking, and even health. Examples of such jobs include e-banking, billing, and stock management in the retail industry and management of mobile payments in the financial sector.

iii) Online Jobs

These are jobs that are accessed and performed online. The whole process of finding the job, completing the task, submitting the job and finally getting paid wholly occurs online. Depending on the specific type of online job, it can come from SMEs, large corporations, and even the government. Examples of online jobs include content creators, online gaming, and paid crowdsourcing.

iv) Jobs That Emerge or Are Created as a Result of Online Platforms

Whenever new innovative platforms make their way into the market, then automatically new jobs are created. Think about Uber; anyone can be a driver on Uber as long as they pass the background check. Consider learning platforms such as Udemy and Skillshare; they opened up the market for instructors. eBay and Alibaba, on the other hand, allow anyone, irrespective of their location to be a shop owner.

v) Jobs Resulting from Digital Entrepreneurs

As mentioned earlier, with Ezinne Uko, any time digital entrepreneurs arise, they create jobs not only for themselves but also for others.

With that in mind, you now understand the specific skills needed to pursue a career in any of the five types of digital jobs. Let us delve even further, how will acquiring these ICT skills provide future job security?

The Crucial Role of Digital Jobs for Future Job Security  

You are probably wondering and asking yourself, why can’t I just be a lawyer? Digital jobs sound exciting but aren’t traditional jobs safer?

Consider this, in the 1960s, switchboard operators connected calls by placing phone plugs in the relevant ports. Fast forward a few years later, advancements in the communication and telephone industry made the job obsolete. Ask yourself, what happened to those millions of switchboard operators?

Let us go back even further, in the 1800s primarily in Europe, professionals whose jobs was to catch rats were employed to keep the rat population under control. Fast forward to 1900s, they had traps, and poison and now in 2018 pest control.

As long as Earth has been in existence, advancements in technology have always made countless jobs obsolete just as it created countless others. In 2016, the World Economic Forum report revealed something interesting. That by 2020—only two years away—5 million jobs will have been lost due to automation. Second, the report states all the industries that most consider safe such as manufacturing, administrative personnel, and even law will be hit hardest.

Think about that for a second then consider another report that says 65% of children entering primary school today will end up working in entirely different jobs that are not in existence yet. If that doesn’t convince you, consider this final statistic we will look at, that by 2020, 90% of jobs in the EU will require digital skills.

With all these reports, a theme keeps emerging, and it all boils down to a single question, do you want to remain relevant or do you want to become irrelevant? Future jobs will of necessity demand digital skills. The digital skills will guarantee that no matter what the technological revolution throws our way, your skills will always be in demand—the very definition of job security.

What Are The Technologies Driving These Digital Jobs?

Analysis and reports suggest that AI, robotics, big data, cloud computing, machine learning, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology will contribute a lot in shaping future job trends.

It is already happening. Just a few years ago, it was unheard of for small to medium-sized companies to consider robotics and yet it is possible to now find a company that has less than a hundred employees incorporating robotics.

Robotics are yet to make considerable inroads in Kenya and even Africa, but other technologies such as big data and cloud computing have made their mark, and it follows robotics, and all the others will soon follow.

There is not one person who doubts that the future will consist of smart systems. Smart homes, smart cars, smart farms, smart factories and ultimately smart cities.

With this in mind, is it any wonder that everyone—in both developed and developing countries—is emphasizing digital jobs and the skills required to accomplish these digital jobs?

The need to make Africa realize the importance of digital jobs and work towards helping the current generation acquire these digital skills was so pressing that in 2013, the world bank in conjunction with the Rockefeller Foundation launched Digital Jobs Africa Forum initiative.

What Is the Digital Jobs Africa Forum Initiative?

It is a seven-year 100-million-dollar initiative launched in six African countries—Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Morocco, and Egypt. The initiative aims to catalyze ICT-enabled employment by educating and helping the youths to acquire the relevant digital skills.

The initiative has already had some significant impact, especially in Ghana and Nigeria. In Ghana, they have not only developed an IT park, but they have also started the laying the groundwork for digitization of public records. The other four countries—Kenya included—are still catching up, but the world bank is committed to seeing the initiative come to fruition.

As a result of this commitment and having known the importance of local bodies in the success of the initiative, the world bank, and the Rockefeller Foundation partnered with government, the private sector, civil society, and development community in each country.

These partners, in turn, were excited to support the initiative because they understood that the benefits it would bring could change the economy of a nation.

Benefits of Focusing on Digital Jobs

To Individuals

  1. Digital jobs will empower those who wouldn’t have otherwise obtained sustainable formal employment.
  2. Help the women and the youth who have been traditionally marginalized when it comes to employment to find sustainable work.
  3. Help an individual remain competitive not only in the country but also abroad because you have the skills everyone needs.

To The Country

  1. Help reduce the rampant corruption evident in the country and by extension most African countries. A study at Suffolk University found that as information and communication technology use increases, corruption decreases.
  2. Digital jobs will play a part in ensuring Kenya’s economy does not get left behind. According to Günther Oettinger, who is the EU Commissioner for the Digital Economy & Society; the digital economy will soon be the only economy globally. Digital jobs will guarantee Kenya maintains its standing as a digital economy.
  3. Digital jobs will make it easier for the government to combat unemployment and by extension keep lifting up the nation from a low-income country to a middle-income one.

To The Private Corporations

  1. Access to highly skilled individuals who will play a part in innovative programs that will elevate the company.
  2. Ability to take part in impact sourcing which according to research creates a more motivated workforce and increases global competitiveness. Impact sourcing is a practice in which companies hire high-potential but disadvantaged applicants.

Final Word

When you consider the information herein and how it extrapolates the critical role of digital jobs; doesn’t it then ring true when we say the only choice we have left as a country is to shift our focus to digital jobs?

Consider the question carefully, and once you have your answer, then it is time to start regarding your laptop as a tool that will unlock the great future you desire.

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