While reading a report from McKinsey Global Institute, predicting that robots could replace 800 million jobs by 2030, drops of cold sweat trickled down my spine. But rather than considering this a threat, it prompted me to step up my digital education and training to remain economically relevant in the future.
But I didn’t do this alone. A strong youth-driven technology entrepreneurial community which comprises young innovators has been the engine sustaining my drive into the digital world. Its operating model is an example of what all young Africans needs to enhance digital skills.
Currently, Cameroon still witnesses a timid use of digital systems owing to widespread ignorance and lack of basic infrastructural resources: lack of affordable internet, computers and regular electricity supply. As a result, opportunities for youths to access and acquire digital skills are limited.
The Silicon Mountain Community, named by its location at the foot of Mount Fako in Buea, Cameroon, seeks to tackle this ignorance while urging stakeholders to create and secure an enabling environment. It exposes and creates opportunities in the digital world via mentorship, trains youths to develop affordable digital innovations and seeks partnerships to demonstrate acquired soft skills.
With provision of required resources, this model can be replicated and adapted entailing:
- Vertical Mentorship: Youth-driven developer groups such as school clubs could be formed across colleges and universities with members linked to mentors in their specific career path. Mentors could be more experienced youths or school teachers knowledgeable in digital technology. Mentees are exposed to opportunities which technology offer in that field; guided through learning resources and building affordable innovations suited for specific environments. Mentors would stir passion, confidence, team spirit and creativity by giving mentees tasks to be completed within a given time.
- Training: Each group would designate suitable working hours and location, develop time-bound objectives under supervision and be given a corresponding minimum number of coding hours to be met as a prerequisite for participation in competitions. A code week or boot camp organized monthly or yearly would be dedicated for inter-club competitions and winners given prizes such as internship placements, fellowships or training. Bi-monthly talks to share challenges, motivate one another and devise improvement methods would ensure sustainability.
- Practice: To practice what has been learned, partnership with institutions for internship and development of their digital services would be mutually beneficial. For example, partnering with schools could enable digitization of school fees payment. Members should be tasked in volunteering to teach the younger students’ basic soft skills. An example is the ICT4Kids program which teaches kids how to develop simple games and draw cartoons during holidays.
As a member of “Women Techmakers,” the female wing of Silicon Mountain, integrating digital technology into primary health care practice has opened exciting dimensions in my career. This is why I believe that it will take an enabling environment and a training model like the one proposed to adequately prepare Africa’s youths for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Ngwashi Christabel Apholung, a Cameroonian national, is a winner of the World Bank Africa 2019 Blog4Dev regional competition.