Boosting youth employment and entrepreneurship in the digital economy

12 Apr 2019 09:00h - 10:45h

Event report


The session focused on innovative solutions to improve the rate of youth employment and entrepreneurship through digital skills development and to reach the Digital Skills for Jobs Campaign’s target of equipping five million young people with job-ready digital skills by 2030. Ms Roxana Widmer-Iliescu (Senior Programme Officer, Digital Inclusion Division, BDT/ITU) moderated the session, stressing the mismatch between market demand and the results of educational systems. There is an urgent need to put in place measures that will ensure that youth can have jobs in the near future.

Ms Naomi Mackenzie (Co-Founder, Kitro, Switzerland) presented her business model to prevent food waste. Her company has developed high technological solutions enabling restaurants and other businesses to reduce their food waste by up to 40 percent. Mackenzie affirmed that being (1) young, (2) female, and (3) with no tech skills presented challenges but also opportunities to run her business, such as (1) having nothing to lose, (2) having attraction from the media, and (3) pushing her technology development team beyond their learned limitations.

Ms Daniela Bas (Director of the Inclusive Social Development Division, UN DESA) affirmed the importance of inclusion when talking about youth employment. In 2015, the UN decided to adopt the 2030 agenda with specific goals regarding the inclusion of all social groups to benefit from the digital economy. Currently, many countries have not been connected yet and they should not be left behind. Also, the inclusion of women and people with disabilities should not be neglected in the fourth industrial revolution.

Mr Daniel Solana (Project Technical Officer, Employment Policy Department, ILO) presented the initiative of the ILO on co-ordinating a global alliance to foster decent jobs for youth. Currently, more than 138 million young workers live in emerging and developing countries in extreme or moderate poverty and more than 59 million young women and men are unemployed. Youth employment investments remain fragmented despite increased policy attention. The global initiative aims to scale action and impact on youth employment through effective, innovative solutions. The initiative consists of a system-wide effort across twenty-three UN entities. They also have partners in the private sector and government. Commitments are expected to reach over 18.5 million youth globally. Their partners’ commitments represent over USD$ 178 million.

Ms Naomi Falkenburg (Programme Officer, Digital Inclusion Division, ITU) emphasised the necessity for keeping inclusiveness in mind when young entrepreneurship is addressed. Although ICTs are accelerators of development, gender, disability, and social inequality exclude many people from benefiting from ICTs. To address digital skills development for young women, who keep being underrepresented in ICT studies, the ITU launched in 2011 the ICT Girl’s Day, which has become an international initiative.

Mr Raymond Tavares (Industrial Development Officer, Department of Trade, Innovation and Investment, UNIDO) emphasised that the conditions required to stimulate innovation are related to both the digital sectors and to the entire ecosystem of universities and the private sector. UNIDO has organised and participated in global forums to reflect on how the fourth industrial revolution can be more inclusive and on which kinds of policy decisions, costs, and skills development should be expected and implemented.

Mr Andrew Rugege (Regional Director for Africa, ITU) stated that 325 million youth aged between 15 and 29 years live in the African continent, which makes Africa the youngest continent in the world. By 2050, the number of young people will double and account for 33 percent of all youth around the globe. The ITU project Boosting Youth Employment for Africa Digital Economy offers a range of policy and programmatic interventions in five countries and activities that engage multiple stakeholders across the continent. It provides digital skill development and knowledge transfer in countries selected based on the existence of political will for the promotion of youth employment within a growing digital economy. They recently launched ‘African Girls Can Code’, an initiative of the ITU and UN, whose objectives are to develop digital skills, introduce girls to coding, and encourage leadership and confidence in young African girls. In this project, girls were provided with laptops in order to learn how to code games and apps.

Mr Anir Chowdhury (Policy Advisor a2i, Government of Bangladesh) said that Bangladesh was the first government in Asia to commit to a Digital Skills campaign. The country is working in gender inclusiveness and its educational system to drive the fourth industrial revolution. They have implemented mandatory ICT classes in secondary school. Chowdhury affirmed that they need the international community to think about solutions to address unemployment due to digitalisation in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors.



By Ana Maria Corrêa