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Preparing the Youth in Emerging Economies for the Digital Economy

By Daniel Schmid, Corporate Sustainability Officer, SAP SE

Information and communications technology (ICT) is enabling transformation not only on a global and regional level, but also individually. This is particularly evident with today’s youth, who are quickly becoming a vital part of the digital economy. In fact, a survey of U.S. parents revealed that 53% of all six-year-olds already have their own mobile phone, a clear indication that these children are already digitally empowered.

But what about children in other areas of the world, say those in the emerging countries in Africa?

In these places, ICT can prepare children for the digital economy, but not necessarily through the use of mobile phones. The innovative application of ICT that enables education for children that currently have no access to it is what is making a difference in places like Africa. And in truth, it is education-based initiatives that may be one of the most significant differentiators in the future economic development of these countries.

Education is key to Africa’s future

According to World Economic Forum, Africa has the largest youth demographic across the globe. Over the next 25 years, it is estimated that the continent’s working-age population will double to one billion, exceeding that of China and India. It is expected that 112 million workers will enter Africa’s labor force by 2020.

However, nearly 35% of Africa’s youth lack the basic skills required to perform a job, and in particular, they lack technology training. According to afriCoderDojo, the number of African children taught the language of computer programming is virtually zero. The ramifications of this are widespread and crippling, as government, private sector and non-profit companies can’t find employees with these skills to fill open positions.

Opening the doors for children across the continent

How can we make education accessible to children across a continent as large as Africa? It takes commitments from people – and organizations – from around the world. Major international companies are already stepping in to help – and here’s a quick glimpse at how:

  • Connectivity and training. Coca-Cola South Africa, bottling partner Coca-Cola Fortune, and BT Global Services are teaming up to provide free Internet access to underserved communities in South Africa. This initiative hopes to enable students and school children to increase their knowledge through education and business training. Coca-Cola is installing refreshment-dispensing coolers while BT is providing design and support, connectivity, Internet access, and business training.
  • Device-based education. The Vodafone Foundation has created a portable “Instant Classroom” with the intention of providing 15,000 child refuges across Africa with access to tablet-based education. According to the foundation, this digital ‘school in a box’ can be set up in a matter of minutes and is designed for areas where electricity and Internet connectivity are unreliable or non-existent. This initiative comes with a laptop, 25 tablets pre-loaded with educational software, a projector, a speaker, and a hotspot modem with connectivity.
  • Technology skills., the Cape Town Science Centre, the Galway Education Centre, and SAP are joining together to launch Africa Code Week. This initiative hopes to empower future generations with the coding tools and skills they need to thrive in the 21st century digital workforce and further Africa’s economic development. The goal of this program, which will be offered in English and French, is to enable an estimated 20,000 children from 11 countries across the continent to participate in software coding workshops. The students, who range in age from eight to 24 years, can attend onsite workshops or take a massive open online course (MOOC).

This is only a glimpse of how international companies are helping emerging economies prepare for the digital economy by providing their youth with ICT services and education. You can learn more about the commitment of SAP to Africa Code Week here; and to learn more about the MOOC courses offered during Africa Code Week, you can visit openSAP. You will also find an interesting MOOC on Sustainability and Business, which discusses how sustainability and innovation are linked. You can also learn more about our efforts in improving the lives of youth around the world here.

This article originally appeared on Digitalist Magazine, in the Improving Lives section. See here

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