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Letters

Invest in technology skills to spur growth

Will informal and formal education structures
Will informal and formal education structures rise up to the challenge of equipping future workforce with necessary skills to contend with the evolving expectations under digital economy? FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Technology is rapidly taking centre stage of everyday human activities and while it has presented lots of developments, majority are struggling finding a balance between its rewards and risks. The witnessed massive job disruption is one risk that the world is trying to confront.

This in turn necessitates important questions, such as, will workers have the ability to keep abreast with the ever-changing face of technology? More fundamentally, will they have the skills to implement solutions offered by technology? Experts note that an extensive array of skills is required to keep pace with emerging market dynamics. This is in line with the 20th edition report from Kenya Economic Update released in 2019 which highlights the need to prepare business and citizens for the digital economy which is at the heart of economic growth.

According to the same report, Kenya has to contend with a huge digital divide regardless of being dubbed as a “Silicon Savannah”. The survey posits that 44 percent of the population in urban areas has internet access against a mere 17 percent of the rural population.

Additionally, there are huge gaps in digital skills which impede maximum implementation of digital solutions which in turn proves to be a vicious cycle by limiting economic growth.

Even with attempts to redress the situation, the digital learning program which covers 93.4 pecent of public primary schools, fails to incorporate secondary schools as they lag behind in accessing internet connectivity.

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Building a workforce that is digitally savvy offers a unique opportunity for Kenya to mitigate the unemployment crisis. School curriculums at primary and advanced levels ought to be reviewed and revised to ensure learners are equipped with digital skills to grant them access to digital services as well as encourage participation in the field of technology.

To advance this, it will necessitate investment from the public and government to facilitate policy measures that will incentivize private entities to invest, so as to better service the marginalized sections of the community.

In tandem, students should be encouraged to lean towards STEM courses as they progress these important skills. To compliment this, training from private sector for the advancement of technology should be facilitated to enable garnering of more skills needed to be viable in the future of work. Several institutions have also made considerable progress in addressing the gap in digital skills among disadvantaged youth.

This endeavour is premised on the fact that every member of the community irrespective of their backgrounds is entitled to quality computer skills which go a long way in upping their chances at succeeding in life.

Youth, especially from poor and rural areas inclusive of other disadvantaged groups such as women, require enhanced services if they are to fully harness advantages availed by digital economy. As a country we have gained mileage in the quest for technology adaption going by the Digital Economy Blueprint released early this year and which envisions quality and affordable internet connectivity for every citizen. The report projects that adequate investment in digital economy will enable the country’s economy to transition from a low-middle income to an advanced status in line with vision 2030. The goal by then, is for Kenya to have joined 1st world markets, granting her citizens direct access to global markets.

However, before a celebratory dance ensues, a pertinent question remains. Will informal and formal education structures rise up to the challenge of equipping future workforce with necessary skills to contend with the evolving expectations under digital economy?

Kimani Wamatangi

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