Monday, January 17, 2022

ICT Whitepaper to shape Kenya’s Digital Economy launched

Through a joint partnership with Huawei and UNESCO, the ICT Talent Cultivation for Kenya’s Digital Economy white-paper was launched last week. The white paper provides research findings on the situation of Kenya’s ICT Talent developments. It also provides clear guidelines and recommendations to better improve the current programs in place by stakeholders including academia, industry and government.

The Cabinet Secretary Ministry of ICT, Joe Mucheru officiated the launch together with University of Nairobi’s Vice Chancellor, Huawei’s Deputy CEO Public Affairs, Ministry of Education Assistant Director for Technical Education, and UNESCO’s Senior Program Specialist.

With a World Bank report predicting that 55% of jobs in Kenya by 2030 will require digital skills, talent cultivation is a fundamental element to reaping the benefits of the digital economy. Organizations and individuals alike continue to rapidly adopt new and emerging technologies, whilst industry sectors are also embracing the digital transformation within their operations. It is therefore important to nurture a workforce that is ready and capable of tapping into the opportunities that will come in the future. As such investment in the relevant industry, skills are of the utmost importance.

“This transformation requires a massive investment in the relevant skills set that will allow for the youth and the old alike to partake and take advantage of the opportunities presented by the digital economy and the gig economy.” Stated CS Joseph Mucheru. “I would like to commend Huawei for your commitment and investment in developing the local ICT talent.” He added.

Dr. Samuel Partey, Program Specialist, UNESCO highlighted the importance of partnerships in ICT talent development and noted UNESCO’s collaboration with the private sector: “UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa believes in the power of ICT for good, and signed a milestone agreement with Huawei in 2019 to enhance digital skills to achieve SDGs, which is also an integral part to the program of equaling quality education in Huawei’s digital inclusion initiative TECH4ALL” 

The pandemic did catapult the digital economy across the world, and Kenya is no exception. It is therefore projected that by 2026, the digital economy will account for 25% of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), up from 15.5 % in 2016. While Africa expects the digital economy to contribute about 5.2% of its GDP by 2025, Kenya’s digital economy is expected to generate 9.24% of the total GDP by 2025, contributing to the projected 33% growth of the gig economy within the same period. This, amongst other factors, demonstrates the significance of the digital economy to Kenya’s economic prospects and transformation. 

“The need to improve ICT in all sectors of the Kenyan economy has been exacerbated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic; this launch is an important milestone in the right direction.” Stated Prof, Stephen Kiama, Vice-Chancellor University of Nairobi. “Building a framework in digital skills and leveraging the tremendous opportunities for technology will help the country to improve education quality and accessibility. I want to recognize UNESCO and Huawei for their efforts towards this.” He added.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) ushered in a new era of economic disruption within Africa paving the way for digital transformation. It has the potential to transform the social-economic development of the entire continent. To achieve this, the white paper recommends the development of an ICT talent cultivation strategy, the establishment of a national ICT skills database, the improvement of academia-industry-collaboration and support for upscaling private sector initiatives and certification programs, revisiting the process of ICT curricula review, and implementation of policy incentives for private sector participation in ICT talent cultivation.

Representing the Principal Secretary, State Department of Vocational Training, Dr. Margaret Mwakima, in absentia, Mr. Ephraim Munene stated that the government is committed to increasing the pace of industry-TVET collaboration in curricula delivery, governance and financing of TVET. This will enable TVETs to keep pace with the rapidly changing digital ecosystem and the requirement of the labor market. “Linkages with relevant industry partners and leaders such as Huawei will be sought to identify new trends, transfer technology and learn from the best practice on curricula delivery to offer more value to our students.” He added.

Ms Fiona Pan, Deputy CEO, Huawei Kenya highlighted Huawei’s contribution and commitment to collaboration with academia in multiple ways: “At Huawei, we take pride in not only helping grow the ICT infrastructure within the country but also the local ICT talent. We have various initiatives to contribute meaningfully to Kenya’s ICT development through our training programs. We provide internships, training programs, and full-time recruitment.”

The importance of collaboration was also highlighted during a panel discussion with representatives of business, government, academia and development partners. The panellists noted that just as software needs to be patched and updated quickly and easily to improve it, academic courses also need a mechanism for quickly and easily adding the latest curriculum and content into courses, without going through a long bureaucratic process that currently exists to update an entire course.

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