Change of mindset is necessary to realise growth and development

Eliud owalo

ICT, Innovation and Digital Economy CS Eliud Owalo (centre) and other government officials arrive at City Market, Nairobi to launch a free internet Wi-Fi hotspot on November 9, 2022. The Ajira Digital Program, a government initiative by the ICT seeks to enable youth to earn a decent wage from digital and digitally-enabled jobs in the gig and freelancing economy.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru I Nation Media Group

Grandma once brought a cat into her home to deal with a rat menace. Doing what children would normally do, we secretly fed the adorable new member of the family from our ration. The well-fed cat never had to eat rats—and so, grandma’s solution didn’t work. 

We have made available digital gadgets and infrastructure to our youth that should catapult them to a bright future. But it is not happening as some rely on handouts. 

But this is not true of all our youth. Recently, I met two young Kenyans who are contracted to work in the United States while living in Kenya. The young men work with several companies, where they are paid per job and make a lot of money. Another one who lives in Kakamega works for companies based in Nairobi and Mombasa. 

This is all made possible by Ajira Digital Program, a government initiative launched and driven by the Ministry of ICT, Innovation and the Digital Economy. Its mission is to enable youth to earn a decent wage from digital and digitally-enabled jobs in the gig and freelancing economy.

It seeks to position Kenya as a labour destination of choice and business process outsourcing hub for multinationals. It also encourages local companies and the public sector to create digital work.

Almost every adult in Kenya has access to a digital device. The most ubiquitous is a mobile phone used, in addition to communication, to send and receive money and for other basic computer applications. Smartphones are quite prestigious to own but few have used them to their full potential.

There is no better feeling than earning from your sweat. Grandpa would say it is better to climb a mango tree for the fruit than wait under it for those that might fall off; a large one falling unexpectedly could break your skull.

In times past, the top athletes who went on to effortlessly break national and world records started off without shoes. They seized the opportunities before them—high altitude and daily practice—from an early age walking barefoot to the only distant school. The early choices and priorities that young people make will matter for years to come.

Evolving workplace

My recent engagement with some young computer gurus revealed quite a bit about the evolving workplace. This should serve as a revelation to many youths still waiting to be employed and confined to offices. The young entrepreneurs will tell you: “Nobody will put food on your table; you have to cook it.” 

Digital technology is now a way of life. Innovation is key to business. Understanding value chains and being able to identify customer needs and convenience could turn a small business into a multi-billion-shilling empire. There are as many opportunities as there are brilliant minds to spot them. A few years ago, our taxi operators were at war with the new entrant Uber. But it opened doors for them.

The term “networking” was understood to mean physically meeting over a coffee or drink. But sharing career experiences and interests in the digital space are quite effective. Physical gatherings are becoming quite unreliable and, mostly, a waste of time.

We must, however, watch the pitfalls and learn from the good in our analogue systems. So much rush in what we do now leaves many gaps. If more time and tight follow-ups were also allocated to understanding the problem at hand, many of our innovations would have gone far.

Granted, there is a place for speed. We also cannot rule out the possibility of wanting to make a quick buck before the idea is pirated. But we should not compromise on quality.

Whereas there is a legitimate fear among those who do not utilise the technology of job losses, there are many others who see it as a magic wand. This is regardless of the profession. Even the small jobs today could leverage this world wonder to boost results. If banking and business transactions in this era could be done digitally, what reason do we have for not maximising our productivity? Millions can now borrow money without owning a bank account, thanks to Safaricom.

Growing up in the new generation, therefore, demands compliance with the new way of doing things.

Mr Mwasi is the chief executive officer, Kenya Yearbook Editorial Board. [email protected].