Tech jobs: Adapting the traditional work structures for the digital terrain

The Kenyan tech scene is experiencing an exponential boom.  

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Dubbed the Silicon Savannah, the Kenyan tech scene is experiencing an exponential boom. Not only is the country attracting international attention and nurturing local talent, but it has also strategically positioned itself as a tech hub of Africa.

While Kenya continues to position itself for the tech revolution, the demonisation of the digital job terrain has resulted in nefarious and unfounded schools of thought being peddled to the detriment of the country.

Let's begin by addressing the elephant in the room: traditional work structures just don't fit neatly within the tech industry. Unlike the clock-in, clock-out factory jobs of the past, tech needs are dynamic. Companies scale up or down based on client demands, a reality that necessitates a flexible workforce. Here's where the gig economy shines.

It offers a win-win: it provides companies with the agility they need while allowing skilled tech workers the freedom to choose projects.

Additionally, a persistent misconception is that the digital job terrain is largely about content moderation- a notoriously challenging role but only one small part of the ICT landscape. The vast majority of tech gigs are essential value chain roles.

Think of it this way: a car factory doesn't just have engineers designing the vehicle – it needs workers to attach labels, maintain production lines, and more. Similarly, the tech world thrives on a network of specialised tasks. Someone might digitally map street signs for self-driving car development or annotate datasets for machine learning.

These are crucial steps in the tech ecosystem, and the individuals who contribute are compensated fairly for their expertise.

Perhaps, and more critical for stakeholders to understand, is that the traditional "8-to-5, permanent job with a pension" model was designed for a bygone era. Owing to their dynamism, tech gigs, on the other hand, require a new legal framework. The push for a rigid application of old laws is off the mark. We need contemporary legislation that reflects the dynamic nature of the tech industry while ensuring fair treatment for workers.

This isn't about weakening protections; it's about creating a framework that fosters innovation and protects workers within the unique context of these jobs.

Kenya has emerged as a leader in the African digital job terrain. However, these jobs are highly mobile and we must not get complacent. Companies can easily shift operations to Uganda, Ethiopia, or elsewhere. Just as Kenya took advantage of opportunities once held by India and the Philippines, other countries are eager to do the same.

Here's where we face a critical choice: do we burden this burgeoning industry with overly restrictive regulations, potentially driving jobs away? Or do we find a way to streamline operations and nurture this economic opportunity? The answer should be clear. It's time for a reality check. Due consideration is fundamental so that we do not inadvertently hinder Kenya's growth, but instead become champions of economic opportunity.

The benefits of these tech gigs far outweigh the challenges, many of which have been addressed. Kenya is building something new, an opportunity that fosters skills development, and international exposure, and injects capital into the economy.

Mr Otieno is a seasoned Public Policy and Governance Practitioner.

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