Positioning the youth for the digital economy

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

As digital skills are critical for future jobs, government is proactively seeking partnerships that will help young people to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the digital economy.

“As government, one of our key objectives is to ensure that young people are well positioned to take advantage of opportunities presented by digital transformation.

“For this reason, the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies is proactively seeking partnerships that will help us achieve this objective,” Minister of Communication and Digital Technologies, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, said on Tuesday.

Addressing the Youth Masterclass on Digital Skills Development Opportunities webinar, the Minister said government, the private sector, youth organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and non-profit organisations (NPOs) have an important role in the digital skilling of the youth, as well as to ensure that they have access to the necessary infrastructure.

“The youth of today is presented with opportunities brought by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and requires the youth to be fully equipped with the necessary digital skills. This will empower them to contribute to the digital economy, while addressing other pressing issues that are facing our country.

“The 4IR era presents various technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), big data, data science, Blockchain and other technologies that are bringing transformation in all dimensions of life. It provides an opportunity to advance socio-economic development,” the Minister said.

With the emergence of 4IR, government entities, private sector firms and other institutions rely on digital technologies to drive economic growth, promote socio-economic development and cultural enrichment.

“The speed of change in science and technology demands an equal speed in acquiring the skills that the industry demands.  The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies has developed the National Digital and Future Skills strategy, whose objective is to establish an education and skills development ecosystem that provides all South Africans with the required skills to create and participate in the digital economy.

“The department is collaborating with both the public and private sector, with the intent to bridge the digital divide.

“For this reason, our training programmes will be conducted everywhere in South Africa, including the remote areas. 

“We are partnering with the Department of Higher Education to establish High Technology classrooms in the TVET [Technical and Vocational Education and Training] colleges countrywide. These classrooms will not only be used by registered students, but unemployed youth will equally benefit. 

“We want to see innovation from every single corner of this country,” the Minister said.


Digital transformation

In 2019, the President combined the Department of Communications with the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services to form the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies.

The department was mandated with leading digital transformation in the country. Since then, the department has managed to unlock plenty of skills development opportunities for young people.

Working with together with the Media, Information and Communication Technologies Sector Education and Training Authority (MICT SETA), 1 000 young people have received training on 3D printing, data science and related programmes.

“Our training institute, the National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa (NEMISA) and Coursera, trained more than 50 000 young people on 4IR related programmes. This is to equip them with the relevant skills such as AI, data science, IoT, Blockchain, big-data, cloud computing and cybersecurity, amongst other key 4IR skills.

“These skills are critical for the digital era and will enable our young people to be entrepreneurs, and be self-sufficient and create jobs for themselves and for their peers,” the Ndabeni-Abrahams said.

The department will also train 3 000 young South Africans and support 150 small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) for the Future of Work. This initiative, which is estimated at R49 million, will be done in partnership with GIZ.

“We are also working with the Department of Employment and Labour to train 73 000 unemployed youth. Our model pulls together a given craft, skills and entrepreneurship, such that every leaner that finishes their training, s/he must have an exit strategy plan.

“The partnerships that I have outlined above have the prospects of equipping young people with the skills that will give them a foothold in today’s fast evolving and competitive labour market,” the Minister said.

Digify Africa’s Xolani Sedibe said young people can people can take advantage of free digital skills courses that are available online.

“If you look at the trends, you can see there are a lot of opportunities in video production, and if you look at how podcasts, smart speakers and voice activated devices are growing, there are opportunities in terms audio production as well,” Sedibe said.

He said there are opportunities for young people to do user experience design, which is about the front-end of most digital technologies.

“A user experience designer maps out how a web platform should be built and how the users should experience the platform, and how that platform can solve the users’ problem. Young people can also get into e-commerce. E-commerce is all about selling and buying of products and services online,” Sedibe said.

Young people who are interested in learning about data science can do so on the IBM Digital Nation Africa Portal.

Google Skills Shop provides data analytics skills and the Facebook Blue Print platform provides learning about digital marketing. 

The Hotspots Academy provides skills on marketing automation, while the YouTube Creator Academy provides opportunities for content creation. – SAnews.gov.za