Digital solutions have an important role to play in national strategies to overcome youth unemployment, according to a new ITU report titled “Digital Opportunities: Innovative ICT Solutions for Youth Employment.”
This includes ensuring that youth around the world obtain digital literacy skills to qualify for the growing number of jobs that demand ICT skills, and that governments promote youth entrepreneurs by supporting innovation hubs, mobile app competitions, co-working spaces for digital entrepreneurs, online mentoring networks and a host of other innovative ICT-enabled resources.
According to the International Labor Organization, 73 million young people are today unemployed worldwide, and three times as many are underemployed.
One of the causes of youth unemployment is a skills mismatch between what the market is demanding and what institutions of learning – both formal and informal – are providing, the report explained.
In particular, many youth are not learning the digital skills that have become essential in virtually every market segment. The good news is that there is an explosion of new online learning opportunities for youth to get the skills they need.
The report explored these new learning opportunities, as well as a growing number of jobs and business opportunities for youth if they have the right skills.
“The ongoing information and communication technology revolution is transforming existing sectors and fuelling new business creation such as the apps economy that didn’t exist a few years ago,” said ITU secretary-general Hamadoun I. Touré.
“The demand for both basic and more advanced ICT skills cuts across all sectors, from agriculture and construction to education and service industries to ICT jobs themselves, in both developing and developed countries. Equipping young people with digital skills opens doors to a range of jobs and business opportunities.”
“We can connect youth to these new opportunities by building awareness of the forces and innovations that are constantly shaping and reshaping pathways for employment and entrepreneurship,” said Brahima Sanou, director of ITU’s telecommunication development bureau, which prepared the report launched at the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-14) in Dubai.
“It is a dynamic environment where governments and other stakeholders need to be adept at developing and launching initiatives in real time. This is a challenging task, yet it is something that can, and must, be done. It is imperative that we act quickly to improve the workforce prospects of the next generation. It is my hope that this report inspires action.”
Sanou added: “This report aims to cast a spotlight on an area that offers promising solutions – digital jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities.”
Entrepreneurship is increasingly recognized as an alternative to wage employment, since young people can also become job creators, rather than job seekers. ICTs are now transforming entrepreneurial opportunities, the report explained.
Just as young people can learn digital skills online, they can also find a wealth of learning opportunities to provide them with the business and so-called “soft” skills they need to launch their own enterprises. This includes skills such as problem solving, creativity, communication and collaboration.
ICTs have given rise to entirely new ways that young digital entrepreneurs are working, such as the growing number of tech hubs or app labs.
These are business incubation spaces that provide solutions to young digital entrepreneurs, providing Internet connectivity, support structures such as shared office space, mentorship and collaboration.