The digital economy is the cup that keeps on giving. It is revolutionizing ways in which people conduct daily activities, strategise for their businesses and organize work. According to World Bank, information and communications technologies (ICTs), digital economy is solely responsible for 17 percent of GDP growth in developing countries as World Economic Forum show that Internet economy in developing countries continues to grow 15-25 percent annually.
Driven by Artificial Intelligence, digital economy indeed has the power to significantly increase productivity in the business sector thereby facilitating growth of economies. From connecting consumers and producers to innovating business models with significant improvements, the possibilities of what could be achieved within the digital space are infinite.
There is still room left for the digital economy to outdo itself by harnessing Impact Sourcing, a model that encourages outsourcing of services to individuals from underserved communities and thus provide them a path to economic self-sufficiency. Visionaries are adopting the model as a vehicle to support inclusive economic development and contend with one of Uganda’s most pressing issues, youth unemployment.
Uganda has one of the youngest populations in the world, with those under the age of 30 making for 78% of total population. This presents a ripe opportunity for substantial development although, in large part hindered by the country’s national unemployment rate, which as of early January stood at 9.2%.
High rates of unemployment, especially among the youth go beyond Uganda as it has been the prevailing assumption that Youth from marginalized communities are lacking in skills required to succeed in the workforce. While this belief holds some measure of truth, young people are finding it an uphill task to get opportunities to earn a living wage from the skills they possess.
This deficiency in integrating talented youth into the workforce has resulted in skills intervention from well-intentioned donors and the Ugandan Government which has set out several initiatives and strategies to address the issue.
Despite the concerted efforts towards job creation, the challenge of youth employment prevails and with it a derailed economy as there is often a gaping hole between skilling the youth and connecting them to a job in the labour market.
It is clear that the new wave of technology disruption is upon us and it calls for government, corporations, policy makers, communities alike to address the gaps and enact measures to remedy the situation so our young men and women, more so those in marginalized areas can access better job opportunities availed by the digital economy.
Digital skills have proven essential for securing long-term employment opportunities across all areas of the economy, and it is important to note that there are still too few resources for individuals to gain proper skills to effectively function in the digital environment.
Seeking to bridge this gap, Samasource launched its offices in Uganda over seven years ago and another in Kenya to not only provide employment but to equip youth with new skills to thrive in the present as well as in future digital economies. This is why in addition, the firm established an internal education program, called SamaU, where a combination of technology platforms with face-to-face training is utilized to provide basic digital skills to acquaint people with working in the digital economy.
With the knowledge that a wholesome approach is required to fully thrive in the digital economy, equipping employees with soft skills is crucial at Samasource. Learning not only revolves around technological skills such as general artificial intelligence and machine learning but incorporates skills on how to manage finances, become a better boss and work in a professional environment. To date, through impact Sourcing Samasource has benefited over 50,000 people in the East African region, a number envisioned to increase over the next few years.
These collected initiatives offer an opportunity to restructure the conversation around youth unemployment in Uganda. With the working-age population estimated to double by 2040, there is no doubt that harnessing the digital economy is the best viable option to solve the unemployment crisis.
The vision to alleviate poverty through job creation in digital platforms is one aligned with the Ministry of ICT agenda encompassed in the ‘Digital Uganda Vision’ which seeks to empower citizens to eradicate poverty and spur economic growth through digital innovation.