The Digital Economy and exploring opportunities for youths

The digital economy is slowly revolutionizing our lives and work environments. There’s an underground movement slowly growing which embraces the future of work and that is the job skills that are currently needed in the labour market.  

According to a study done by the World Bank in 2021, close to 230 million jobs by 2030 will be digitized and of those 230 million, less than 10 million will be Tech jobs. Many companies are adjusting by introducing digitally enabled business models.

The digital economy can play a significant role in boosting job creation in Uganda in the next decade by enabling growth, innovation, efficiency, and expansion of Uganda’s markets into new frontiers and creating a new future of work for young people. That is why in partnership with The Mastercard Foundation, The Innovation Village is soon launching the digital economy program that will transform the education, business and agricultural sectors in our communities.  

 We talk to Saul Weikama, the Digital Economy Lead at The Innovation Village and what the opportunities mean for today’s young people.

Saul Weikama, the Digital Economy Lead at The Innovation Village.

From your view, what is the digital economy? 

The clearest understanding of the Digital Economy is that it is the rapid economic growth driven by digital infrastructure. For instance, where previously physical infrastructure like railways, roads and shipping lines were the drivers of economic growth, now the infrastructure is digitized. That’s not to say physical infrastructure no longer counts, it now it has an equal companion to help drive growth and the way we work. 

What quick examples come to mind that the ordinary person can relate to today? 

The most obvious example of digital infrastructure is the Internet, an interconnection of billions of endpoints that talk to each other through bits and bytes. The newest digital infrastructural modules building on top of the traditional Internet are what we call Digital Rails. Examples are programming interfaces (APIs) that provide digital infrastructure in banking, agriculture, medicine, government, and regulation to mention but a few. Digital Infrastructure allows a doctor in Kampala to perform surgery on a patient in Pretoria, in real-time. This is happening now and will only get broader. It’s through digital infrastructure that we can process cross-border payments between mobile wallets in real-time. Beneath that seemingly simple action of sending and cashing out money from your mobile, is a collection of digital rails that encompass regulation, banking switches, online security and so on. Digital Infrastructure makes it all seamless and invisible but very effective. 

We recently held a career expo on the future of work. Where are we headed in terms of how we get employment and how we execute our jobs? 

The future of work is here now with legions working across continents and delivering value in real-time to companies globally without having to leave the comfort of their homes or being tethered to a single location. The future of work is digital, and it’s the digital natives who will thrive initially just like the railways and roads initially benefited those with cars and goods to transport. Eventually, the digital economy will reach beyond the digital natives and touch all lives. 

What is The Innovation Village doing to leverage the opportunities presented by the Digital Economy? 

The Innovation Village in partnership with MasterCard has created the Digital Economy program through which we are building a set of Digital Rails. Our aim is to transform the lives of youths in marginalized and hard-to-reach communities by skilling and providing them access to digital infrastructure so they can expand their existing enterprises or acquire sustainable dignified work. At its core, the Digital Economy program seeks to democratize digital infrastructure by ensuring it is delivered seamlessly to off-grid, non-digital-native youths whose talents and passion must be harnessed to grow the overall economy. 

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