Digital literacy training key in helping youth create jobs, expert says

Patrick Maina digital literacy skills expert

Patrick Maina, a digital literacy skills expert, during a youth training session.  Every July 15 marks the World Youth Skills Day which celebrates the importance of young people to be equipped with skills for entrepreneurship, employment and decent work.

Photo credit: Rachel Kibui | Nation Media Group

Every July 15 marks the World Youth Skills Day (WYSD) which celebrates the importance of young people to be equipped with skills for entrepreneurship, employment and decent work. In the current era, digital skills are important especially for young people. This is especially because global cultures are dynamic and digitalisation comes with opportunities as well as challenges, yet, its needs are growing day by day.

Nation’s Rachel Kibui spoke toPatrick Maina, a lawyer and a consultant on digital innovations, whose current focus is on developing programmes to support youth employment through digital technologies.

Over the years, technology has been evolving thus making digitalisation prominent, important not evadable. Tell us about this evolution.

Evolution of technology has been characterised by increased digitalisation of various processes and modes of operating. Some of these processes include payments and cash transfers which was significantly disrupted by mobile money services.

Additionally, adapted online practices [were] brought about by effects of the Covid-19 pandemic as was the case with learning, working and lifestyle.

Agriculture is a key pillar of the country’s economy and a major employer for young people. How does digitalisation affect this sector?

Digitalisation can accelerate transformation and progress in agriculture by providing solutions that can increase productivity and efficiency, enhance market linkages, increase access to affordable digital financing for agribusinesses, and improve farming and agribusiness models that are climate smart and environmental friendly. These innovations have the potential to incentivise the youth into agribusiness by unlocking new opportunities for sustainable income generating businesses in agriculture.

What are the opportunities for youth in digitalisation?

It is estimated that around one million youth come into the job market in Kenya every year. With such bulging numbers, and with more youth unemployed, digitalisation, more so in agriculture can help mitigate unemployment particularly in rural areas where majority of the youth reside. Youth can leverage social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp to reach their customers, gain access to knowledge and also expand their markets for their products and services beyond the location of their business.

E-commerce platforms for agro-processed inventory and agricultural products that have undergone value addition are linking ‘agripreneurs’ to better and safer online payment methods and logistical support for their orders.

Similarly, online government services such as business registration services can help youth in agribusiness formalise their ventures, thereby positioning themselves for funding and business supply contracts.

Digital agriculture solutions provide methods for climate smart farming using digital techniques to monitor and optimise agricultural production processes which has the potential to revolutionise the global food chain.

From your experience, what challenges do young people face in their quest towards enhancing their digital literacy?

There are various barriers to digital adoption by the youth such as lack of adequate infrastructure to enable stable internet connectivity in urban and rural areas. 

High cost of devices including smartphones as well as cost of data and internet services has also limited youth from accessing digital services.

There is still a lack of sufficient and relevant digital literacy training programmes to provide youth with skills on navigating the digital world and help them develop these digital skills for gainful employment and sustainable livelihoods.

How does the future look like from the lens of digitalised agriculture sector?

Adoption of digital agricultural solutions and practices among the youth is on the increase, occasioned by impact-driven programmes on training and skills-matching for ‘agripreneurs’ using digital innovations in their agribusiness ventures.

Organisations like the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (Unido) have rolled out capacity building programmes such as Opportunities for Youth in Africa (OYA) and Market Access Upgrade Program (Markup) Kenya where hundreds of youth and women in agribusiness have received training on employment and entrepreneurship through digital innovations. Markup Kenya is funded by the European Union and implemented by Unido in partnership with the government and the private sector.

Partnerships intended to facilitate digital innovations in agriculture are being forged between the private and public sector where incubation hubs and accelerators focused on tech-based agribusinesses are being set up, as well as digital village hubs at constituency and ward levels.

Being World Youth Skills Day, which specific digital skills do you feel are of great importance and basic for young people in agriculture?

Digital skills are essential for youth in agribusiness. The Covid-19 pandemic has led to increasingly more businesses integrating online channels to promote their products and businesses. Digital marketing skills are particularly significant to enable youth understand how they can leverage electronic devices that they frequently and routinely use such as mobile phones as well as using ubiquitous digital platforms to link their agribusinesses to markets that are not restricted by boundaries.

Adoption of skills and innovations in agri-technology should also be supported among young ‘agripreneurs’ to help increase productivity, improve resilience and mitigate climate change.

Having interacted with the EU-funded Markup Kenya programme, what recommendations would you make as far as youth and digitalisation is concerned?

One of key focus by Markup Kenya is increasing exports of agribusiness and horticultural products and promoting regional integration and access to the European market for selected horticultural value chains.

The programme offered training to youth and women on digital literacy which identified gaps and challenges while also providing solutions and opportunities in agribusinesses run by youth that can be addressed using digital technologies.

More interventions are necessary to promote competitiveness of youth-led agribusinesses in the local and export market that can leverage digital technology. Onboarding more youth and women onto digital literacy programmes will lead to faster uptake of digital technology by youth in agribusiness and a shift in the mind-set of new generation of farmers from the traditional subsistence-based farming to commercial, revenue-driven agribusiness.

 Anything else you would like to add?

The call for digitalisation requires collaboration and a synergised approach by all actors to create more opportunities and awareness for youth to acquire digital skills for meaningful and sustainable employment.

Similarly, youth need to lean into these opportunities where they can receive pertinent skills that they can apply to position them in a digitally evolving world.