Skills for the digital economy: Digital skills in Kenya
Skills for the digital economy: Digital skills in Kenya26 May, 2020 •
A qualitative case study on the level of youth digital skills in Kenya – Are Kenyans tech savvy?
Known as “Silicon Savannah,” Kenya’s ICT sector has grown by an average of 10.8% annually since 2016 according to the World Bank. The sector is becoming a significant source of economic development and job creation in country and has spill over effects throughout the economy. According to the IFC (2019), roughly 65 % of children entering primary school today will end up working in a job that doesn’t exist yet. Sub-Saharan Africa will see more than 230 million “digital jobs”. These jobs will be in all sectors of the economy. Therefore, young Africans need digital skills to enter and remain competitive throughout the economy.
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Most young people, being “digital natives”, might assume that their peers can easily and effectively use technology. This assumption is often made about Kenya because of 70% of its population being under 35, the ubiquity of mobile phones and it being the home of Mpesa. We wanted to find out if this assumption holds true by conducting a digital skills test with young people in Kibera, an informal settlement in Nairobi.
Insights from our study
- The quality of digital skills taught at secondary schools varies widely – much is theoretical
- Digital skills test results averaged 55%, well below the normative benchmark
- Youth performed better on content creation and worst on digital security
- Overall, men performed better than women, regardless of the socio-economic background
- Youth showed a strong preference for using smartphones over laptops for the test
This Tech Savvy study provides contextualised quantitative evidence to illustrate the dearth of digital skills on the African continent, even in Kenya. In a globalised economy that is digitising at a rapid rate, African youth need digital skills to access employment opportunities. As one human resource manager explained to us, the potential is there, but young people need greater direction:
“[…] the youth should be redirected to be more creative using technology […] Their curiosity, from my experience, is a bit low. […] What I have noticed here in Nairobi is that the majority of youth that I have met are holding a computer in their hands through the smartphone. All they need to do is to be redirected to learn or to be encouraged to use this computer for their benefit over and above using it for games.”
To read more about Cenfri’s work on digital skills, see here.