Youth Taking Lead in Bridging the Digital Divide in Kenya Under the Community Leadership Program
Kenya is referred to as the Silicon Savannah. Despite this feat, Kenya’s women and youth still lag behind in spurring new social, economic and digital opportunities. Worse still, the poverty gap across the Information Communication Technology (ICT) ecosystem has greatly excluded vulnerable youth and women through barriers such as the high cost of devices, internet access, lack of digital infrastructure, and lack of ICT skills for business and jobs creation.
Every year, 800,000 youth join the labour market, 50,000 of whom are university graduates. Of the jobs available 80% are in the informal sector leaving the majority of young people unemployed. The situation is further exacerbated by a growing skills gap, where the qualifications of graduates do not always align with the current needs of the labour market. In today’s evolving digital landscape, employers seek not only educated young individuals but also those who are digitally-savvy.
Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) Kenya’s community leaders are at the forefront of bridging the digital divide, playing a pivotal role in driving equitable access to technology across the country and contributing to a brighter future where the digital divide no longer hinders youth access to the digital economy.
Committed to enhancing digital inclusion
DOT Kenya is committed to mobilising and inspiring all underserved and disadvantaged young people with digital literacy, 21st-century skills, and the self-confidence that will enable them to thrive in an inclusive digital economy. Through the Community Leadership Program, under the Daring to Shift project (D2S), DOT Kenya aimed to empower youth with the tools and knowledge needed to navigate the digital landscape. Since the launch of the D2S project in 2019, supported by Global Affairs Canada, we have worked with 79 Community Leaders (70% being young women) across Kenya. The community leaders, a majority of whom are university graduates, have not only benefited from the one year internship but also positively impacted their communities.
Increased digital literacy
We have been able to equip over 13,000 youth with digital skills and this has been achievable through the support of Community Leaders. Speaking on how many youth she has trained, Alice Dambe our Community Leader based in Kisumu said:
“I have successfully trained more than 200 young people in my community, within Kisumu County, in partnership with Ujima Foundation, Women in Enterprise Kenya, Tunza Dada Foundation, One Vibe Africa, Nyakach CBO and Dawn of Obunga CBO. 70% of my participants were young women, including those with disabilities. These efforts have helped in bridging the digital divide by empowering and equipping youth, especially young women, with digital skills.”
Provided networking opportunities
Besides enhancing digital skills in communities, the Community Leadership Program also provided networking opportunities for the Community Leaders.
“Working at DOT is an exciting journey with new experiences each day. I have had the opportunity to network and interact with individuals in both the formal and informal sector as well as the education sector. I have grown in many areas and gone out of my comfort zone while in the process of looking for partnerships and receiving on-the-job training. DOT aims to empower youth and as a youth trainer, I have also been empowered while empowering others, says Lynette Ndabi, our Community Leader from Central Kenya.”
Boosted communication skills
Mobilisation of youth and facilitation of digital skills training challenged youth to harness their communication skills. Elly Owange, our Community Leader based in the Coastal region, recounts how this experience has helped him hone his public speaking skills.
“Throughout the two years, I have witnessed significant development in my public speaking and facilitation abilities, as well as honed my skills in mobilisation and acquired skills in Monitoring & Evaluation. My experience at DOT Kenya has laid a solid foundation for my career, and I firmly believe that with these acquired skills, I am well-positioned to pursue even more promising prospects in the future.”
D2S —an impactful initiative
The above testimonials are a testament to the impact of the D2S project. This transformative multinational project was implemented by Digital Opportunity Trust, in partnership with Global Affairs Canada, from 2019 to 2024 in various regions across Kenya. D2S made it possible to empower 79 Community Leaders, with a particular focus on young women as agents of positive change. Over the project’s duration, it reached 13,877 community beneficiaries, with 70% of them being women.
The project focused on equipping youth with essential skills such as digital literacy, workforce readiness, entrepreneurship, and social innovation. This holistic approach aimed to catalyse the creation of digital jobs, businesses, and local enterprises that address community-specific needs and value chains. D2S is rooted in the belief that young people, as co-designers of their own futures, play a pivotal role in driving inclusive growth, fostering resilience, and enabling community recovery. By bridging the digital divide, transforming ecosystems, and promoting social and economic development, D2S represented a beacon of positive change across the regions it serves especially during and after the COVID-19 Pandemic.