The Foundation recently convened leaders in Ghana’s ICT sector, government and civil society to discuss opportunities and strategies for the country’s high potential but disadvantaged youth to work in digital jobs. This roundtable was one in a series of country-level discussions that the Foundation is hosting as it commences its Digital Jobs Africa initiative.
The roundtable was attended by major corporations like IBM and Google, government including the Information and Technology Secretariat (ITES) and Public Sector Reform Secretariat and nonprofits working in Ghana such as Grameen Foundation and YES Ghana. Participants considered several questions that will inform a strategy for Ghana that will enable the Foundation, in partnership with a diverse set of actors, to support and sustain a thriving digital economy that has the potential to address Ghana’s youth unemployment challenge, estimated at 25%.
One dynamic opportunity discussed at the roundtable is the further development of the outsourcing sector while also ensuring that those jobs are attainable for our target population. Ghana is the top ranking Sub-Saharan African country listed on AT Kearney’s 2011 Global Services Location index because of its financial attractiveness and positive business environment. However, the overall industry is relatively small with only 3,500 jobs in outsourcing.
Participants commented that growing the outsourcing sector will depend on attracting both local and international demand for outsourcing services, and agreed that improved infrastructure including reducing the costs of connectivity and developing real estate would make Ghana a more attractive destination. Sourcing work locally from banks and insurance companies, for example, will help to prove Ghana’s capacity for high quality outsourcing services.
Additionally, the discussion focused on the potential to create a significant number of jobs to digitize the immense backlog of government records if the government makes this a policy priority. This would continue the work to digitize government records by building on the ITES Workforce Readiness Program, while also helping to build capacity in Ghana’s outsourcing sector. A secondary effect of this work could be the creation of new businesses that use government data to provide information and services to the public.
Developing the digital economy that enables these types of business will require implementation of ICT policies and projects such as the creation of a national data center and technology parks. Enabling access to ICT throughout the country, including last mile ICT infrastructure development is critical. Ghana would also benefit from developing a deeper culture of innovation to generate new businesses.
The digital economy in Ghana will be powered by youth. Although the country’s youth are skilled, with literacy levels and secondary education completion rates both at 85%, there is a need for better workforce readiness including training on work ethics. In addition, linking training for digital jobs to national qualifications standards such as the technical and vocational training (TVET) competency based training system will give employers confidence that the youth are adequately prepared for digital jobs.
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Credit: Sarah Troup, Rockefeller Foundation