What are ‘digital jobs’? If you have access to a computer, Internet and online or mobile payment, can you get a job? The answer is yes, but having basic literacy and computer skills are essential. Knowledge of English is also a big plus. Earlier this year, the World Bank and the Rockefeller Foundation organized a “Digital Jobs Africa Forum” to discuss the potential of digital jobs in creating employment in Africa.
Digital Jobs Africa is a seven-year, US$100 million dollar initiative of the Rockefeller Foundation that seeks to impact the lives of one million people in six African countries (South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria, Ghana, Morocco, and Egypt) by catalyzing ICT-enabled employment and skills training for high-potential African youth who would not otherwise have access to sustainable employment. Launched in 2013, the initiative works in close partnership with stakeholders from the private sector, government, civil society, and the development community.
In partnership with the Digital Jobs Africa Initiative, the World Bank has undertaken a number of activities to increase and enhance opportunities for digital job creation in Africa, including development of an information technology (IT) park in Ghana, capacity building for digitization of public records, and online work/microwork awareness building and training in Nigeria. Recently, the global online outsourcing study was also released to analyze the holistic picture of rapidly growing online outsourcing market (please visit www.ictforjobs.org for more information).
These successful collaborations have resulted in a renewed commitment to a strengthened partnership between the Rockefeller Foundation and the World Bank on the digital jobs agenda to develop skills for youth, as well as to create digital jobs across sectors including agriculture, e-commerce, education, and transport through co-financing catalytic and innovative activities.
Types of digital jobs
The Rockefeller Foundation categorizes digital jobs as those created through the application of ICT to a new or existing activity or process. Digital jobs generally include performing information-based tasks that build the individual’s capacity for future work. These jobs — which are growing at a rapid pace — can be placed into the following five categories:
- Jobs that are created in the ICT industry and ICT-enabled services: include formal ICT industry jobs such as IT and business process outsourcing, mobile/software/hardware companies, and broadband infrastructure development. Examples of jobs include call center operator, system administrator, programmer, and web developer.
- ICT-enabled jobs across sectors: Digital jobs exist in every sector of the economy including health care, agriculture, education, retail, and manufacturing. Examples include claims management and diagnostic management in the health sector, billing and stock control in the retail sector and e-banking and mobile payments in the financial services sector.
- Jobs that are accessed and performed online: Jobs from this category are virtual in terms of the process of finding a job, performing the job and then being paid for the job. Such businesses include the online game industry, microwork and paid crowdsourcing. Work comes from small and medium enterprises, large corporations and government. These jobs tend to be supplemental, but very flexible since the work can be conducted anytime from anywhere.
- Jobs that are emerging based through / created via online platforms: A wide range of online platforms are creating entirely new kinds of jobs. Many of these platforms serve as a marketplace for anyone to be a shop owner through e-commerce (e.g. eBay, Alibaba), or an instructor/teacher of different subjects through educational platforms (e.g. Udemy, Skillshare). Also, as part of the expanding “sharing economy,” some online platforms empower users to earn incomes through sharing and lending their resources, time and skills. These services range from car sharing, peer-to-peer accommodation and task assignments. Virtually anyone can be a driver through Uber and Lyft, a hostel service provider through Airbnb, or a deliverer or handyman thoroughTaskRabbit.
- Jobs that are created through digital entrepreneurs: A plethora of emerging, publicly available Big Data from different industries and government is providing opportunities for digital entrepreneurship. Similarly, the decreasing cost of digital fabrication machines and microcomputers — such as 3D printers, laser cutters, Arduino and Raspberry Pi — create the chance to find a job, start a business and earn an income for anyone able to do programming, design, manufacturing and sales. Learning these skills is becoming easier as well, through accessing tech hubs in Africa, fab labs around the world and leveraging a range of free training courses online. Initial funding for businesses can be also crowdsourced through online platforms including Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Goteo.
Digital jobs opportunities will continue to expand in the near future as more innovations take place through web platforms. In order for the countries to leverage these future digital job opportunities, it will be important for youth to develop digital skills and 21st century skills.
What’s interesting about digital jobs is that various labor market data will be generated through these web platforms. Leveraging this data, it will be easier for the workers to identify most-demanded skills and can develop those skills to be competitive in the labor market. For instance, Upwork (former Elance and oDesk) has a web page showcasing the skills most demanded through an online freelancing marketplace. One of the largest online job search sites, called “Indeed,” also has various job market information including job postings per capita, industry employment trends and job trends.
In parallel, the digital presence of individuals is beginning to play a key role for getting and retaining jobs. E-commerce, online education, transportation, and accommodation platforms are all depending on the trustworthiness and reputation of individual workers. As a result, success is somewhat dependent on social reputation. By taking advantage of labor market data and strategically navigating social media and online reputation, one can potentially be a successful worker. But learning how to navigate in the digital economy will be a key.
The World Bank and the Rockefeller Foundation will continue to collaborate to increase digital job opportunities and helping develop necessary skills for youth.
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