Digital Technology Literacy: A New Window of Opportunity for African Youth

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By Nita Duru

As Africa embraces the digital age, digital technology literacy has emerged as a new window of opportunity for African youth. It provides them with the tools and abilities necessary to succeed in a digitally-driven world. By equipping African youth with digital technology skills, we can create a generation empowered to harness the opportunities provided by technology and drive positive change on the continent.

The digital economy is rapidly growing, offering diverse employment and entrepreneurship opportunities. African youth with skills in digital technology can participate in this burgeoning economy by working in the tech industry or starting their digital businesses. Digital skills such as data analysis, coding, cloud computing, cybersecurity, AI/machine learning, and digital marketing, among others, are in high demand globally. With well-planned investment, Africa has the potential to become a global hub of technological and ecological innovation.

One primary benefit that the African continent would reap from digital technology literacy is its potential to foster innovation and problem-solving. Africa faces several unique challenges in various sectors, including education, healthcare, agriculture, transportation, and more. African youth, through the development of digital technology skills, can leverage technology to find innovative solutions to these challenges. They can develop e-learning platforms and online courses to provide access to educational resources and opportunities for those in remote or underprivileged areas, especially girls who, due to gender disparity in various African communities, lack access to traditional schools. Additionally, they can develop smart farming techniques utilizing data analysis to improve food security and mitigate hunger, ensuring a steady supply of nutritious food for Africa’s teeming population. Mobile apps can be created to improve access to healthcare services. Digital technology literacy will empower African youth to drive change and create a positive impact in their communities.

Another significant advantage of investing in digital technology literacy for African youth is the potential impact on employment opportunities. As technology continues to evolve and become more integrated into various industries and sectors, the demand for skilled individuals grows. A 2021 Rand Corporation report estimates that due to digital skills gaps, 14 of the G20 countries could miss out on $11.5 trillion in cumulative GDP growth. Therefore, digital technology skills will be increasingly necessary for workers to succeed in the global market. Equipping young Africans with technology literacy skills is crucial to prepare them for the jobs of the future, reducing unemployment rates and fostering economic growth.

To unlock this new window of opportunity presented by digital technology literacy, stakeholders need to invest in infrastructure, digital connectivity, and access to technology for African youth. Initiatives should also focus on providing relevant digital skills training and education programs tailored to the local context, addressing the specific needs of African communities.

By prioritizing technology literacy for African youth, we can equip them with the tools they need to not only thrive in the digital era but also drive positive change on the continent. This investment in human capital will pave the way for sustainable development, economic growth, and increased opportunities for African nations as they continue to harness the power of technology.

A recent USAID report, with support from BCG, found that about 87% of African business leaders identify digital skills development as a priority area in need of further investment. Currently, African countries score between 1.8 and 5 on the Digital Skills Gap Index, far below the global average of 6. The data show that, of the world’s 20 countries with the weakest digital skills, 12 are in Africa, and only 11% of Africa’s tertiary education graduates have formal digital training. It records that 650 million workers would need to be trained or retrained in digital skills for the continent to meet the demand of digital services by 2030.

To promote digital technology literacy in Africa, many organizations have been at the forefront of offering training to African youth. These organizations include Youths In Tech Africa, Google, Smart Africa Digital Academy, Coursera, CWW Tech Africa, United Nations e-Learning Courses, and many others. They recognize the importance of digital skills in today’s world and aim to bridge the digital divide in Africa by providing access to free training and resources in various digital technology fields. Their goals align with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 4, which aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, including the acquisition of relevant digital skills.

However, to fully harness the potential of digital technology literacy, certain barriers need to be addressed. There is a need to improve infrastructure, including internet connectivity and access to affordable devices. Governments, educational institutions, private sector entities, and NGOs should work together in partnerships and collaboration to provide training programs and initiatives that will equip African youth with the necessary digital technology skills. Additionally, efforts should be made to bridge the gender gap in technology literacy, as women are currently underrepresented in the sector.

Overall, technology literacy holds the promise of unlocking economic opportunities and empowering African youth. By investing in digital skills development, Africa can tap into the benefits of the digital revolution, driving inclusive growth and improving the quality of life for millions of young Africans.


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