How ready are our youth to embrace the virtual economy?

This post discusses some of the challenges that today’s youth, especially those from less advantaged means, face in using the Internet and technology for employment and wealth creation.

http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=2280A society’s youth – those between the ages of 18 and 25 – are the age group that typically have the highest unemployment levels among the working population. Among those from the lower socio-economic brackets, who also might have few skills and/or limited education, unemployment rates tend to be considerably higher.

Through the Internet, and the virtual economy that it facilitates, there are numerous opportunities for employment and work creation. However, they all require persons to be equipped to participate in the integrated workplace that is beginning to emerge.

This post focuses on youth from lesser means, who are often overlooked in many discussions on employment and ICT, and aims to highlight a few of the challenges that they face in trying to harness technology and possible solutions that could be implemented.

The challenge

Although there has been an awareness of the importance of ICT and technology in our societies, the digital divide still exists among our youth. As a result, there are still children and young adults who might not be as exposed to technology and its possibilities, and who do not have the means through which to recognise its (as well as their) potential.

To be clear: with the proliferation of mobile/cellular phones and North American media in the Caribbean, the youth might be aware of the newer consumer products that are available on the market. However, outside of being users of those commodities – if they can afford them – they might not be in a position to take advantage of the job and wealth creation opportunities that technology invariably provides.

What can we do?

In order to begin to increase the number of youth that are equipped to embrace the virtual economy, there is need for greater awareness of the possibilities and opportunities through which they can be a successful in that field. This means however, that the society as a whole ought to be prepared to provide a more enabling environment through which today’s youth can better see the future.

In our society today, what frequently occurs is that although we might be producing ICT/IT/computer programming university graduates, for example, many cannot get work in those fields. There does not appear to be any future – no road to success along such paths. As a result, many of them either emigrate to seek out better opportunities, or abandon that field completely, which ultimately means that our countries still have not built much capacity in those areas.

Second, consideration ought to be given to how and the degree to which we can empower our youth. For example, education is key, but many schools still have not integrated computers and computing into the learning process. Additionally, there is a growing concern, especially in developed countries, that IT/ICT curricula in primary and secondary schools focus (almost exclusively) on teaching students to use productivity software applications and not on computer programming, as they once did. Hence the criticism is that students are being trained to use existing applications – to be followers – but not innovators and creators for those platforms.

Finally, it is critical that innovation and entrepreneurship are championed, since in most societies, they are important avenues for jobs and wealth creation. Persons, particularly those categorised as youth, could benefit greatly from businesses development support, such as opportunities for networking, mentoring and financing. In the Caribbean, these options are often limited, which means that many entrepreneurs and innovators do not get the support they need to realise their potential.

The above are only a few of the challenges and alternatives that can be explored to improve opportunities among the youth population…

Do you agree with the points raised?

Are there any other important issues affecting the youth and their ability to embrace the Internet and the virtual economy that should be discussed?

Do share in the Comments box below…

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhoto.net

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