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Here’s how we can meet the global need for digital skills development

More than ever, COVID-19 has thrown the need for digital skills and capacities into stark relief around the world. The newly published Digital Skills Insights 2020 report is a carefully curated collection of the best strategies to strengthen the capacities and skills needed to help everyone benefit fully from digital transformation, no matter where they live and no matter what their level of digital skill development. Below is my foreword to this timely new edition of the report.

In the wake of the global pandemic, the importance of digital skills has never been so evident, nor so urgent. As those lucky enough to enjoy fast connectivity took refuge from the global health emergency by moving to a virtual environment to support economic continuity, education and interpersonal contact, those lacking access to digital networks and skills have been left even further behind.

As the world struggles to fashion a ‘new normal’ for the post-pandemic era, it is more apparent than ever that the ability to leverage digital technologies will be vital to the future resilience and prosperity of nations, communities and individuals. This timely new edition of Digital Skills Insights focuses on pertinent topics related to this pressing global need for digital capacity building and skills development.

Now in its fourth year, Digital Skill Insights aims to provide new perspectives and enhance knowledge among the ITU stakeholder community on issues impacting digital learning and skills development, featuring eight new articles from leading international experts, divided into two broad areas. The first set provides a broad overview of the discussion on digital skills demand and supply, new skills requirements in emerging job markets, and challenges related to future digital skills requirements. Issues covered include digital skills shortages in global labour markets, and how skills needs evolve in line with new technologies. They emphasize the need for accurate forecasts of digital skills requirements, and flexible digital skills acquisition approaches.

The second set of articles focuses on digital skills and the digital gender divide. These pieces discuss pertinent interlinkages between digitization, jobs, gender and digital skills development, highlighting the importance of collaborative efforts in addressing digital skills requirements and raising thought-provoking questions about the participation of women and girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. Questions raised include whether there is enough data to determine if variations in digital skills gender gaps are affected by increasing diversification of jobs in the IT sector, and why do women continue to be left behind in terms of direct participation in the digital economy, despite accelerating connectivity and access to mobile devices.

I hope this publication will stimulate and contribute to the important ongoing discussions among ITU’s membership, including policymakers, academics and stakeholders involved in the digital skills ecosystem, on the best strategies to rapidly strengthen the capacities and skills required to profit fully from the benefits of digital transformation.

Learn more and get the full publication free of charge here.

Source : https://www.itu.int/en/myitu/News/2020/09/23/16/43/Digital-Skills-Insights-2020-report-Doreen-Bogdan-Martin

 

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UNCDF

In 2017, UNCDF partnered with Prabhu Management to digitalize the dairy value chain in Nepal which helped bring previously unbanked farmers into the financial ecosystem.

The pilot project that started with four dairy cooperatives in two districts (Kavre and Bhaktapur) digitalized over 20 cooperatives by 2020 with nearly 5,000 dairy farmers registered on the mobile wallet, and more than 1500 farmers receiving their earnings digitally.

The digitalization of the dairy cooperatives ended the manual process of tracking information and improved efficiency which in turn helped farmers in more ways than one. For one thing it brought farmers into the financial ecosystem and for another it saved farmers time and money on travel as the closest bank in rural Nepal can be miles away. It made payment secure for both the farmers and the cooperatives. Above all, it significantly minimized payment delays which was beneficial to farmers in reducing financial distress particularly in the wake of COVID- 19.

In March 2020, Nepal enforced strict preemptive lockdown for three months to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. This measure severely impacted businesses across industries including agriculture. The restrictions in mobility and social distancing paved the way for rapid adoption of digital technologies worldwide. To understand the impact of dairy digitalization during the pandemic and the future outlook for the agriculture sector, UNCDF analyzed the data of the farmers and their cooperatives. The data provided insight on how digitalization has helped smallholder farmers cope with the many challenges imposed by the pandemic and the ensuing lockdown. The analysis also shows that the pandemic was a trigger in the adoption of digital technologies by the farmers.

Digital wallet proved invaluable to farmers during COVID-19

The data from Prabhu Management shows a spike of nearly 600 percent in the usage of digital financial services (DFS) during the COVID-19 lockdown period. The average number of transactions in this period increased from 357 per month to 2,434 transactions, while the average number of users per month also increased by 300 percent. Furthermore, nearly 56 percent of the farmers used for the first time DFS services during the lockdown period.

This analysis indicates the latent demand and acceptability of financial services in rural areas. Additionally, it confirms that grassroot organizations such as cooperatives were a vital lifeline for farmers throughout the pandemic.

Usage of bank channels increased seven times at the start of the lockdown

Many countries have reported an increase in the usage of formal financial channels during the lockdown period. The data from the cooperatives revealed a similar pattern for farmers too, showing a seven-time increase in the usage of banking channels for deposits and withdrawals during the lockdown period. Most of the users preferred banking channels to cash out their wallet balance during the initial months of lockdown. This shows that users generally prefer using bank channels to transfer the received amount to their bank accounts.

Agents played a critical role in onboarding farmers

DFS agents such as cooperatives and other community-based organizations have been key in bridging the gap between farmers and formal financial channels. Users’ data show that nearly 58 percent of the cash coming into the wallet is through DFS agent channels such as onboarded cooperatives, merchants, and agents via the Prabhu platform. Also, nearly 42 percent of cash coming into the wallet is from other digital sources such as bank transfers (16 percent), mobile banking (16 percent) and remittances (10 percent). This indicates that due to the financial services offered by these grassroots organizations, farmers were able to use other digital channels as per their need, hence, broadening their financial access.

Farmers are using the digital wallet for additional services

The analysis shows that farmers have started to use digital payments for additional services such as agriculture inputs, insurance payments, etc. This demonstrates that there is a possibility and need for broadening the ecosystem with relevant merchants and new services. Farmers are ready for the expansion of the services provided at the tip of their fingers on their phones, it is now a matter of building their awareness.

The surge in the use of digital wallet has proven that the digitalization of dairy cooperatives has helped many smallholder farmers weather the pandemic. While COVID-19 is still running its course, the analysis underscores the importance of digital literacy and digital financial services, especially in rural Nepal.

Read more about digitalizing dairy cooperatives in Nepal

In 2017, UNCDF partnered with Prabhu Management to digitalize the dairy value chain in Nepal which helped bring previously unbanked farmers into the financial ecosystem.

The pilot project that started with four dairy...

Commonwealth

Women and girls have been discussing how to acquire cutting-edge ICT skills during an online seminar backed by the Commonwealth Secretariat and Google.

The webinar, focusing on digital literacy, digital entrepreneurship and digital leadership in three interactive panel sessions, highlighted the need for governments, civil society and the private sector to increase their efforts to build the digital skills of women and girls.

Held on 22 April to coincide with the international ‘Girls in ICT Day’, this event was the third in the Secretariat’s Data, Technology and Digitalisation series, targeting both policymakers and the public with over 100 participants.

Providing an overview of key digital technologies and the skills required to harness their full potential in the Commonwealth, the panels addressed gender equality, the empowerment of women and the strengthening of partnerships to support Commonwealth member countries.

Short films showcasing the impact of empowering women and girls were screened, with women sharing the benefits of being digitally empowered.

Benefits of being digitally empowered

Sajeda Begam, from India, is one of many women from across the Commonwealth who has benefitted from digital skills, helped by Google’s ‘Women Will’ initiative.

She said: “When I got my first smartphone and started using it to access the internet, I realised that there’s so much to learn. It gave me the self-confidence to teach others.”

Sajeda shared her experience of using the internet to help coordinate relief efforts with the authorities when her village was flooded and related how she passed on tech skills to other women and girls.

Nishma Robb, Google Director of Brand and Reputation Marketing, said: “I can never get tired of reading about these amazing stories of these women who’ve been given the opportunity and access to information.

“The opportunity to learn can fulfil not just dreams and ambitions but create more helpful opportunity for their families and communities. That’s the progress we need.”

Impact of digital inclusion

Joining the webinar, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Patricia Scotland said: “Attaining digital literacy lays the foundation for women and girls to then move on to careers in the digital world, digital entrepreneurship and to become digital leaders.

“We know, too, that digital inclusion has a significant impact for younger girls.

In education, the increased use of digital platforms and computer-centred resources means there is a potential for digital literacy to spread from schools to families and the larger community.”

The Secretary General added: “Digital inclusivity embraces the many ways in which we can cooperate and work together to tackle issues of knowledge, skill, opportunity, and access, relating to the design and use of technology and digital solutions .”

Three separate panel sessions of the seminar reached the same conclusion – that government and stakeholders should focus on programmes or initiatives that provide digital literacy for women and girls, digital entrepreneurship for financial independence and by extension, digital leadership.

Watch plenary sessions

Click the image to watch the video

Tell us about your experiences

The Commonwealth is inviting women and girls to share their experiences with the digital world in a short video message.

Click here to learn more and join the #DigitalSkillsForHer campaign. 

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AfDB

This May, the African Development Bank Group is launching a call for proposals for projects enhancing the viability and sustainability of women entrepreneurship enablers.

Women’s business associations, incubators, accelerators, and cooperatives that advance women’s entrepreneurship, can apply for funding for innovative projects or programs to bolster the skills of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) owned and run by women across Africa, the Bank announced.

Entrepreneurship enablers, which include business associations and civil society organizations, play an important role in empowering women to establish bankable SMEs and other businesses. However, the enablers themselves often face challenges, such as long-term growth plans and lack of financing, which reduce their reach, impact and sustainability.

“Women business enablers are critical to creating a viable enabling environment in which women entrepreneurs can grow and create businesses that generate jobs for the continent. Through the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa initiative, the Bank is committed to supporting enablers to strengthen the business and financial skills as well as wealth-creating capacity of their members,” said Esther Dassanou, manager of the program, also known as AFAWA.

The Bank will assess applicants’ track record in supporting women SMEs, innovation and strong development impact, as well as their capacity to mobilize other sources of funding. Eligible organizations may request funding of between $100,000 and $250,000, provided through the Bank’s Gender Equality Trust Fund.

Applications must be received by midnight on 30 May 2021.

“This call for proposals is an opportunity for direct and concrete support for women entrepreneurship enablers to scale up their growth and impact, and advance women’s financial inclusion on the continent,” said Vanessa Moungar, Bank Director for Gender, Women and Civil Society.

While all countries will be considered, proposals from the following countries that already align with the ongoing AFAWA Guarantee for Growth Program pipeline are strongly encouraged to apply: Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Rwanda and Zambia.

For more details on the process and to access the proposal application click here.

AFAWA aims to unlock $5 billion in financing for small and medium enterprises owned and managed by women by 2026. AFAWA is supported by the Bank’s partners and donors, the Group of Seven (G7) countries as well as the Netherlands and Sweden, and the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi). The funding, which aims to strengthen the ecosystem for women’s entrepreneurship, is in line with the Bank’s agenda to further gender equality and women’s empowerment.

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ESCAP

We are living through a decisive moment. The COVID-19 pandemic’s devasting impact is reaching every corner of the world. As we look back at this period, we will see history divided into a pre-COVID and a post-COVID world.

And a defining feature of the post-COVID world will be the digital transformation that has permeated every aspect of our lives. Chief Technology Officers can say that the pandemic has done their job for them, accelerating the digitalization of economies and societies at an unimaginable pace.

The digital transformation has gone hand in hand with the rise of digital technologies. These technologies have supported governments to implement social protection schemes at pace and scale. They have enabled e-health and online education, and they are helping businesses continue to operate and trade through digital finance and e-commerce.

However, ensuring that the digital transformation happening all around us does not become another facet of the deep inequalities of the countries in Asia and the Pacific is probably one of the greatest challenges we face as countries start to rebuild.

That is why inclusion must be at the heart of digital transformation if the promise to “leave no one behind” is to be met. In particular, we need to embed inclusive objectives in the four core foundations of the digital economy: Internet access, digital skills, digital financing and e-commerce.

Chances are you are reading this on your laptop or mobile phone, giving you access to the digital world. It is hard for most of us to imagine what life would be like during the pandemic if we didn’t. Sadly, this is a reality for over 2 billion people in the Asia-Pacific region. And among those two billion are some of the most vulnerable groups. For example, some 20 per cent of students in East Asia and the Pacific and almost 40 per cent of students in South and West Asia could not access remote learning this past year. This will have lasting effects that perpetuate inter-generational inequality and poverty.

To address the digital divide, our Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway initiative focuses on four interrelated pillars: infrastructure connectivity, efficient Internet traffic and network management, e-resilience, and affordable broadband access for all.

However, Internet access alone is not enough. There is a persistent and still expanding digital skills gap in the Asia-Pacific region. Among the top ten most digitally advanced economies in Asia and the Pacific, around 90 per cent of their populations use the Internet. At the beginning of the century, this share stood at around 25 per cent. By contrast, for the bottom ten economies, Internet users have grown from around 1 per cent in 2000 to only 20 per cent today.

In response, our Asian and Pacific Training Centre for Information and Communication Technology for Development is equipping policymakers and women and youth with digital skills by conducting demand-driven training programmes.

On digital finance, while the percentage of digital payment users has increased over recent years, the gap between men and women users persists. Additionally, in East Asia and the Pacific, there is a US$1.3 trillion formal financing gap for women-led enterprises.

And while the Asia-Pacific region is emerging as a leading force in the global e-commerce market – with more than 40 per cent of the global e-commerce transactions – these gains have been led by just a few markets.

As a response, our Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship project addresses the challenges women-owned enterprises face by developing innovative digital financing and e-commerce solutions to support women entrepreneurs, who have been hit harder than most during the pandemic. We have supported a range of digital finance and e-commerce solutions through this initiative – such as a digital bookkeeping app and an agritech solution – providing more inclusive options for women entrepreneurs to thrive. To date, the project has supported over 7,000 women to access financing and leveraged over US$50 million in private capital for women entrepreneurs.

Inclusion is undoubtedly central to the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific’s (ESCAP) technology and innovation work that focuses on addressing the core foundations of an inclusive digital economy.

The recent ESCAP, ADB and UNDP report on “Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Leaving No country Behind” underlined the key role digital technologies played during the pandemic and how they can also play a critical role in building back better. However, the report shows that digitalization can also widen gaps in economic and social development within and between countries, unless countries can provide affordable and reliable Internet for all and make access to the core foundations of the digital economy central to building back better.

While digital transformation is certain, its direction is not. Governments, civil society and the private sector must work together to ensure that digital technologies benefit not only the economy but society and the environment, and have inclusion at their heart. Only then do we stand a chance of realizing the transformative potential of digital technologies to accelerate progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.

We are living through a decisive moment. The COVID-19 pandemic’s devasting impact is reaching every corner of the world. As we look back at this period, we will see history divided into a pre-COVID and...

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