NEW HAVEN, Connecticut — Currently, 46% of the world is not online. In today’s economy, without this connection, job opportunities, as well as access to healthcare, education and information, are limited. Digital technologies have been deemed a necessary and integral part of development efforts around the world. As such, governments have an important role to play in building economic cohesion via digital workforce training. Programs like Click-On Kaduna, a government-sponsored Nigerian initiative, help bridge the divide between the demand in the digital economy and the lack of skills and gender gap in digital uptake.
Kaduna is a fragile area in Northern Nigeria frequently threatened by Boko Haram terrorist attacks. Around 75% of the state’s population is younger than the age of 35. However, young people are overwhelmingly unemployed or underemployed, resulting in a 30% unemployment rate.
Between 2018 and 2020, Kaduna attracted high rates of foreign direct investments, around $500 million was largely due to the young working age and high consumer population. These investments had a measurable impact on the number of digital earning opportunities. However, there is a fast-growing skills gap between jobs in the digital industry and the skills supply available.
In response to this gap, the Rockefeller Foundation, the World Bank Group and the Kaduna State Government partnered to create Click-On Kaduna. The program leverages digital workforce opportunities and makes use of Kaduna’s large youth population to situate the state as a hub for technology innovation. Serving youth aged 18-40, the initiative’s goal is to empower youths with digital skills and entrepreneurship, as well as improve the overall unemployment rate and reduce violence. The World Bank heralded the program’s experiential learning model as one of the most effective approaches for improved digital literacy.
In July 2018, the program held an E-lance Workshop for job matching and facilitation. It had almost 1,000 participants, one-third of whom were women. Over three days, participants were trained in virtual freelancing best-practices. It also piloted a partnership with Upwork, a California-based freelancing platform, that allowed participants easy access to jobs in the virtual marketplace.
Following the workshop’s success, and after receiving approximately 6,500 applications, Click-On Kaduna began the six-month Digital Entrepreneurship Incubation Program (KAD-DIP) and the Digital Skills Development Program in April 2019.
KAD-DIP used mentorship, soft skills development, networking opportunities and instruction on how to succeed in the global digital entrepreneurship space. The focus was on creating an innovation-driven ecosystem that equipped participants with scalable and transferable skills throughout the digital sector. The Digital Skills Development Program sought to improve youth digital literacy to adopt better technology in Kaduna.
The Borgen Project sat down with three Click-On Kaduna members: Nuradeen Maidoki, the program manager, and Aisha Sani and Amina Ndaliman, two program coordinators, to learn more about the organization’s work.
Click-On Kaduna on “Creating Incentives for Young People to Stay”
Click-On Kaduna has had significant success, training 1,200 young people and generating $200,000 in gross income. There have been significant income increases for most of its participants. Additionally, 80% of participants have received a professional certification after their Kaduna Digital Skills Certificate. Moreover, 25% of participants reported being employed full-time after the program, with another 14% connected to internship opportunities and 14% already started entrepreneurial endeavors. However, what the organization is most proud of is the ecosystem change.
“We have seen the quality of life change — immediately you could see that — as it relates to their health, their education, their livelihoods,” explains Maidoki. “Just if you are able to provide digital platforms, frameworks and skills to disadvantaged groups, they are able to participate in the ecosystem.”
Click-On Kaduna prides itself on “creating incentives for young people to stay,” Maidoki told The Borgen Project. “How do you continuously create innovative and exciting moments in between [learning]?” Part of what distinguishes the program is the small class size and a focus on experiential and mixed learning. Classes have 25 students with one instructor and two teaching assistants. This is especially significant because, in Nigeria, it is common to have a 40:1 student-to-teacher ratio. Classes go beyond just technical training, incorporating public speaking, negotiations, time management mentorship, guest lectures and games.
One of the Click-On Kaduna’s focal points is to equip women with the skills to earn an income independently. Sani, one of the program coordinators, emphasized that receiving a quality education in a safe environment is “not the norm for our northern female women who are mostly at home.” In addition to a skills gap in the marketplace, there is a skills gap between genders. Women are on average 20% less likely to use mobile internet than men. To mitigate this, Click-On Kaduna has 50% female participation. Sani told The Borgen Project that providing these digital skills to women lets them “learn all the skills they need to generate income from wherever they are.”
Additionally, the program found ways for mothers with children to participate. They created a monitored venue for children to stay during classes so women could continue lessons that will eventually allow them to earn money. Maidoki added that creating safe learning spaces is vital to “ensure equal opportunities to young people irrespective of gender.”
The Importance of Digital Access Amid COVID-19
As many jobs have transitioned to remote work during COVID-19, reliance on digital and mobile networks has shown that access to and understanding digital technologies is integral to resiliency in crises. Click-On Kaduna has an important role to play. “How do we ensure not only remote but experiential learning?” queries Maidoki. “Everything is changing… the key question is how do we interact with digital infrastructure? How do you leverage your skills to achieve work in a remote era? We have to be ready for this eventual shift and how to scale at less cost.”
Maidoki added that the rate of change right now can feel frightening. “Initiatives around the world are just simply not enough,” explained Maidoki. “We have billions [of people to target]. We need to go at a faster pace.” He added that there needs to be a tripling of investment and funding for programs teaching digital literacy and “a tripling of commitment” because digital connectivity will be a major contributor in building sustainability. Investing in human capital, Maidoki says, lifts people out of poverty.
The Click-On Kaduna program is changing lives and altering entire communities. It takes pride in the complete ecosystem change. “It’s a step-down system” with a wide ripple effect, Sani says. “You can see the zeal from these youth that they are creating their own businesses, supporting themselves…They are supporting their families which a year ago they couldn’t do…This gives me more hope. As we keep going, our Click-On Kaduna tree is growing bigger.”
– Samantha Friborg
Photo: With Permission from Naradeen Maidoki