Youth need to leverage vast potential in digital spaces

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021 00:00 |
Digital world. Photo/Courtesy

Nadia Abdalla 

The year 2020 was defined by a health crisis occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic, which ended up having adverse effects on world economies.

Many people lost their jobs as companies were forced to either shut down or minimise their operations.

Whilst the pandemic has affected people across all demographics, the youth have been disproportionately at greater economic risk. 

According to the fourth edition of the International Labor Organisation Monitor: Covid-19 and the World of Work, more than one in six young people, have lost their jobs, since the beginning of this global health crisis.

This is as it worsened the existing vulnerabilities of youth, in relation to work, by disrupting their plans for education and training, thus delaying their transition to the job market. 

But despite all the negative effects of the pandemic, it has also shown us how impactful the digital space can be, in economic recovery.

The pandemic led to a surge in the use of  digital space due to the social distancing norms and lockdowns, which forced people and organisations to adjust to new ways of work and life.

Latest data from the Sector Statistics Report by the Communications Authority of Kenya, for instance, shows that the internet market was on an upward trajectory as at the end of September 2020, with internet subscriptions rising by 4.8 per cent to 43.5 million from the previous 41.5 million. 

Similarly, in April last year, Safaricom which is the country’s largest mobile service provider, reported an increase of 70 per cent in its internet data consumption, with mobile data usage also rising by 35 per cent. 

Vast potential

In light of this, and bearing in mind that 75 per cent of the Kenyan population is aged 35 years and below according to statistics from the 2019 census, digital job creation has to be a priority for us. 

There is every reason to ensure that youth are on board in our economic recovery process, and, the digital space provides just the best opportunity to accelerate this process.

With an increasing number of youth being computer literate, it means that youth have the chance to drive our economy by utilising the digital space to even greater heights. 

The digital space has a vast potential to generate job opportunities for many of our young people and it is  important, that they embrace this opportunity.

Our youth are some of the most innovative in the region. This, plus the power of technology can prove to be an irresistible force in achieving success.

To fully exploit the opportunities presented by the digital space, the youth must take it upon themselves and realise their capabilities.

According to the Digital Data Insights of Kenya 2020 report by Datareportal, there are about 22.28 million internet users in Kenya which represents about half of our entire population. A big chunk of this number are the youth. 

A quick check on most social media platforms, however, will tell you that we are not putting these digital spaces to the best of use as, often, the digital media space is rife with content that is not very useful. However there are many others who continue to leverage these platforms to promote their businesses. 

It is common nowadays to find posts of small businesses which entirely depend on social media for their marketing. Social media has also created an avenue for job opportunities for the youth such as in social media management and analytics.

This just shows that there are rewards for those who utilise digital spaces and time in the best way. 

But even as many young people have access to the internet and are digital literate, there still exists a huge number of them, who are yet to access these opportunities.

It is for this reason that the national government through the Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs has been running different programs to have more youth to access these opportunities.

One such program is the Ajira Digital Program that provides an opportunity for the youth to exploit digital technologies, in order to be well equipped for the increasing digital job opportunities. 

As we begin this New Year, I implore the youth to take it upon themselves, to embrace these opportunities and realise the power they have to change the fortunes of this country for the better.  — The writer is the Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs

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