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ICT for Youth empowerment
The world today is faced with several challenges like the economic recession, climatic change, disease outbreaks, increased organized crime, information explosion, and uncontrolled migration. Like any other calamity, the harsh effects are mostly felt by the vulnerable third world states. Zimbabwe, coming out of an economic crisis characterized by record inflation, high unemployment, heavy brain drain and a large reduction in the Gross Domestic Product, has plenty to do with regards to enhancing the recovery path and rejuvenating the economy. With the Unity government having managed to tame the legendary inflation and the economy expected to grow, focus is now on which sectors of development should be prioritized over others given a background of an economy thriving on limited resources.
Most governments concur and recognize the fact that Information Communication Technologies (ICT’s) are central to social and economic development. On the other end of the continuum, the youth are perceived as the highest potential users of ICT. In addition, the UN population division has revealed the following statistics about youth:
It, therefore, would not only be fair but wise to recommend that the bulk of resources and opportunities should be directed towards developing this sector.
The African Union acknowledges this thought and has established the African Regional Action Plan on a Knowledge Economy (ARPKE) as a promising pan-African initiative that will establish a platform for launching regional and sub-regional ICT projects for the benefit of the African youth. The Government of Zimbabwe, through the relevant ministries of ICT and Youth empowerment, should compliment this gesture and give preference to projects that give special attention to youth developing their ICT capabilities since the youth represent the most valuable asset and hope for the future.
While addressing Youth and ICT, emphasis on critical issues such as access, integration, empowerment, learning and employment is essential. The youth should be able to apply various ICT strategies to improve gathering, collation, evaluation and dissemination of information regardless of their areas of expertise. Below are some essential areas:
Education and Training
E-Learning is set to surpass traditional face to face education because it has proven to be a more effective method of instruction. The consensus of research shows that online instruction is better than traditional methods because of the numerous advantages attached to it. The Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education has adopted “Moodle” as the recommended Learning Management System or platform (LMS) for colleges and universities in Zimbabwe. This poses several questions regarding these institutions’ capacity to fully implement E-Learning, ability of lecturers to upload learning materials on the LMS and capability of students to navigate it. There is need for harmonized policy guidelines on mainstreaming ICT’s in the education system.
There is a need to facilitate and grow E-Commerce locally. The Wikipedia defines E – Commerce as buying and selling products and services over electronic systems such as the internet and other computer networks. The amount of trade conducted electronically has grown extraordinarily with widespread internet usage. The use of commerce is conducted in this way, spurring and drawing on innovations in electronic funds transfer, supply chain management, Internet marketing, online transaction processing, electronic data interchange (EDI), inventory management systems, and automated data collection systems. Modern electronic commerce typically uses the World Wide Web at least at some point in the transaction's lifecycle, although it can encompass a wider range of technologies such as e-mail as well.
With agriculture being the mainstay of the economy, there is need for transformation to accommodate modernization in order to utelise ICT in land management, crop and animal production and output processing. ICT promotes information sharing for forecasting and sustainable agricultural development. It is imperative that agrometeorological services should harness ICT’S in order to ensure that the mass populace makes maximum use of online agricultural information services to improve productivity and promote sustainable development
Mining and Manufacturing
ICT use for both small and large scale mining industries can aid in prospecting and modeling deposits. It can also improve the quality of controls, marketing, production data and management in trade.
Research, data gathering and processing information for dissemination within the health sector will be achieved by developing and promoting the use of ICT to efficiently deliver health services. This will result in integration of health services with an interactive national and international ICT information sharing system.ICT’S can also be used to improve health Information services and also to facilitate the realization of the Millennium Development Goals.
The tourism industry would benefit from electronic reservations, payment systems and travel technology. Countries like Malaysia have benefitted immensely from innovative E – Tourism projects.
Having highlighted some of the areas that would benefit from ICT’s, it is imperative to capacitate the youth in order to enable them to pioneer proceedings in these areas. ICT training for the youth should be extended to grassroots levels and remote areas. Opportunities for research should be availed and best practice projects on ICT that have been implemented in some areas should be replicated. Social networking sites available on the internet provide an opportunity for youth to showcase their capabilities, share accomplishments, and reveal challenges. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and hi5 are some of the modern platforms that the youth can use to create personal, project or event profiles in order to market themselves. These networking forum are becoming so influential that Personnel Recruitment companies have hinted that potential employers are consulting these during candidate selection.
Whilst the government should be commended for waiving customs duty on ICT products, more should be done to encourage the youth to venture into projects related to ICT. Incentives for those carrying out research and development in this sector, for instance, would go a long way in promoting creativity in the local industry. The youth, undoubtedly, has brilliant ideas and such incentives would encourage creation of small scale enterprises and establishment of public private partnerships. Such incentives may include tax exemption, tax reduction on equipment and software, special ICT investment funds, subsidies and micro-credit.
Submitted by Farai Mutindindi on 25 August 2010 - 12:08pm.