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The knowledge society/the digital economy and the ubiquitous use of ICTs in almost every aspect of human life has made it necessary for people to have digital skills to effectively use, create and innovate with ICTs. Moreover, a growing number of jobs across all sectors require ICT skills, which has led many experts to conclude that ICT and digital skills are key to successful participation in the labour market.
Despite this need, the promise of ICTs has not been realized in formal educational systems. Research illustrates the limitations in traditional models of education, as they are not adequately preparing students to meet the demands of a changing job market. Furthermore, seizing the potential of ICTs for education requires the development and implementation of national policies/programmes aimed at integrating ICTs in education as a whole, and better responding to labour market needs. It thus requires a coordinated approach across various ministries and levels of government. In some countries ministries of labour, telecommunications, youth or human development, education and even industry work together to identify common areas of interest and targeted activities.
Promoting ICT skills development in extracurricular educational settings shows that one can acquire ICT skills almost anywhere. These are out-of-classroom opportunities which governments need to pay attention to and support if they want to foster an ICT-savvy, innovative labour force. To date, most activities have been supported and initiated by non-government entities and the private sector. What is needed now is for governments at all levels to take proactive steps to take advantage of these efforts.
Current ICT-enabled communication between government and citizens is already having an impact on youth, making them feel more connected, engaged and heard. Even when ICT-based government initiatives are not youth-focused, young people perceive such communication as being directed primarily to their age group.
ICTs can engage and motivate youth to get involved in developing and learning about their communities and thus forge increased commitment and empowerment. Young leaders have attributed the access of information as an empowering agent allowing youth to “hold their head high and walk into a meeting with government officials. Knowledge is power, power is self-esteem.
National policies and regulatory strategies are vital for ensuring that the future ICT needs of Generation Y and Z are met. Not only in terms of access, ensuring that the networks can support increased traffic, but also in terms of training and programmes geared towards the empowerment of young people. Basic ICT literacy not only qualifies people for jobs in conventional sectors, but also opens doors for them to participate in rapidly growing markets such as business process outsourcing, crowdsourcing, and microwork. People with more advanced ICT skills can take advantage of an even wider range of opportunities brought about by the growth of the ‘app economy’, mobile phones, social media, games, and other technologically-driven areas, fueling new business ventures in every sector. National ICT and broadband strategies should reflect these dynamics with regards to young people to realize the full potential of the digital revolution. There are more ICT users than ever before, with over five billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide, and more than two billion Internet users. With 6.8 billion mobile subscriptions globally, the world is more interconnected than ever before. This is an opportunity waiting for you every day to seize through a tech skill.