According to Wikipedia, the digital economy simply refers to an economy that is based on digital computing technologies. In Nigeria, the digital economy is expected to generate $88 billion and three million jobs for citizens by 2021. The burning question is “how prepared are the youths for this emerging digital economy?”
Well, we may not be prepared right now, but the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) provides the perfect incubator to prepare the youths for the digital future of work.
Each year, the NYSC enlists at least 250,000 graduates to gain work experience while serving the nation in locations that are new to them. The program has however been under-utilized, as policy makers have failed to recognize its potential.
To change the narrative, my idea is to create a digital platform for NYSC members to sign up as Digital Economy Ambassadors (DEAs). This platform will provide networking and funding opportunities; learning resources and specified strategies for NYSC members to drive digitalization during the duration of their service year.
NYSC members who are DEAs can specifically drive the digital economy and prepare for the future of work through the following ways:
- Digital Teachers: The majority of NYSC members are posted by the government to work as teachers in primary and secondary schools scattered all over the country. This provides a perfect opportunity for the transfer of digital knowledge to their students. These NYSC teachers can also create digital clubs in the schools that they are posted to. Through these clubs, NYSC members can prepare young students for the digital economy by using the learning resources available on the DEA platform.
- Digital Projects: NYSC members are encouraged to undertake individual projects during the duration of their service year. This is a great avenue to engage in digitally-inclined projects. For instance, during my own NYSC service year, I introduced a program at my workplace known as “Zeb Internship program” (ZIP). Through ZIP, I conducted software training for university interns to enable them stay relevant in the profession of urban planning. NYSC members must be prepared to innovate similar impactful digital projects during their service year.
- Digital Skill Acquisition: The NYSC has a program known as Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED). SAED includes training in ICT, engineering works and so on. There is a need to make more digital skills available and attractive for NYSC members. The Digital Economy Ambassadors Platform (DEAP) will provide the theoretical background of the skills available on the SAED program and guide NYSC members to make informed and relevant choices.
- Digital Start-ups: At the end of the NYSC year, the government makes interest-free loans available to NYSC members who have great business ideas. This is a ready-made funding opportunity for NYSC members to establish digital business that will create employment and directly drive the country’s digital economy. DEAP will also provide a regularly updated list of other available funding opportunities and networking for NYSC members to set up joint ventures.
The NYSC has the potential to involve about a million Nigerian young people and make them digitally ready for the future of work by 2021 if the government, private sector, and especially the youth key in and carefully implement the strategies highlighted above.
Damilola Adeniran, a Nigerian national, is a winner of the World Bank Africa 2019 Blog4Dev regional competition.