Conference sneak preview / Field Stories

Skills for the digital age – and for all

Three German Development Policy Approaches for a More Inclusive Future

With an average age of only nineteen, African has the youngest and fastest-growing population of any continent. Its youth promises to be a catalyst for innovation, change and economic growth. Its rejuvenating population, however, will need about 20 million new jobs every year to support its economic potential. Digitalization, as the major transformative force of our century, can be part of the solution – if we manage it the right way. 

Artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, and virtual reality, however, are not only enablers in a new work environment. They are also transforming the nature of work and the skills needed to thrive in the digital economy. While some believe they will create a significant number of new jobs, others fear the loss of the same. And while we can all expect an increase in productivity, we are faced with an ever-expanding skills gap. All the while, access to the basic infrastructure of the digital economy remains a major barrier. Despite the fact that more and more people own a mobile phone or have access to the internet, half of the world’s population is still offline. 

Our Agenda at eLearning Africa

The overarching goal of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is to help bridge digital divides and provide necessary skills to Africa’s youth. At this year’s eLearning conference in Kigali, the largest international conference on ICT for development, education, and training in Africa, BMZ Deputy Director Hans-Peter Baur will address these opportunities and challenges in conversation with Hon. Dr Eugene Mutimura, the Rwandan Minister of Education, and other distinguished guests. The Ministerial Roundtable will discuss how African countries, businesses and workers can take advantage of rapid change to get ahead of their competitors. At the opening plenary, the same high-ranking guests will unanimously focus on joint learning and opportunities for growth. 

There will also be three sessions on how German development cooperation is addressing the most urgent challenges: 

Access

At the Pre-conference Workshop on Wednesday, September 26, GIZ will discuss ways to deal with a lack of infrastructure in the digital age. In “Limited internet access? Let’s build our own networks! Offline teaching and learning in sub-Saharan Africa”, the GIZ Malawi team will discuss the potential of intranets to improve education. They will show how student teachers and lecturers can use open educational resources (OER) as an ideal tool for sharing knowledge within institutions, boosting collaboration, increasing communication, and giving access to “online” resources for teaching and learning.  

The workshop facilitators will guide participants in an “online-offline journey” toward building a resourceful, stable, and sustainable intranet in educational institutions. Participants are encouraged to share their ideas and experience toward shaping a model that affords the use of OER in sub-Sahara African educational institutions in the face of a lack of internet absence.

Work-based learning

Besides the challenge of providing access to technologies, there is the issue of digital literacy and digitally enabled competencies. The skill sets required to thrive in the digital age are changing rapidly, demanding a major shift in education.

In the panel discussion entitled Skills Development through work-based learning on Thursday, 27 September 2018 (11:45 – 13:00), German development experts will argue that learning for the future is about equipping people with the skills they need to become creative problem solvers. Education providers and employers must work together to make qualifications more relevant for the labour market and enable learners to adapt to a changing world. 

Breaking down the digital gender divide 

Despite the potential of the digital age to break down barriers, women remain underrepresented as entrepreneurs, innovators, and leaders in the new digital world. During the Knowledge Exchange Session (KES) on Friday September 28, the ICT Chamber of Rwanda, partners of GIZ, will present WeCode from Rwanda, and its ambitious aim of closing the digital gender divide in the country. The programming academy and software agency for working-age women in Rwanda provides high-level programming training and accompanies its students over the course of their studies well into their lives as employers and entrepreneurs through mentorship programs. At the conference, Alex N’tale, CEO of the ICT Chamber Rwanda and implementation partner of the WeCode program, will share his experience with starting WeCode and the challenges he faced when starting a school for women only.  

BMZ’s objectives

Promoting education and employment in the digital age is a priority area of German development policy. Federal Minister Dr Gerd Müller is delighted to support this year’s eLearning conference – again as a patron. For more information on BMZ’s digital strategies, see http://www.bmz.de/ict.

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