ICT should strengthen youth employment opportunities  

18Feb 2021
Editor
The Guardian
ICT should strengthen youth employment opportunities  

Involving youth in agricultural development and decision making processes is key to ensuring sustainable development in Africa, and framing this within the context of ICTs and entrepreneurship provides a valuable dimension to the discourse of agricultural modernisation and prosperity.

While the agricultural sector is traditionally not very popular among youth in Africa, notably because it lacks policy support, ICT innovations are contributing to improving its image. They advance value chains, providing new employment opportunities, and attract more young people to the sector. Facilitating cheaper and more reliable access to ICT devices and connectivity is needed to accelerate ICT adoption among youth in agriculture, especially young farmers and agripreneurs. Efforts in this field must go hand in hand with increased capacity building in ICT use, tailored towards agribusiness development.

 

ICT entrepreneurship and innovation development in the agricultural sector is a recent

development that offers new employment opportunities to African youth. It needs to be

further promoted in all African countries and needs multi-stakeholder support to strengthen

its profitability and effectiveness.

African agricultural educational institutions should include or strengthen courses on ICT innovations in their curricula. This is essential to nurture a generation of young agriculturalists fully prepared to take advantage of ICT innovations in their professional career after

graduation.There is a need to strengthen ICT use in agriculture by public and private institutions through

awareness creation and capacity building. This involves improving equipment in ways that enhance work environments and make them more conducive to innovations by youth in gricultural professions.

Information and communications technology (ICT) is an extensional term for information technology (IT) that stresses the role of unified communications  and the integration of telecommunications (telephone lines and wireless signals) and computers, as well as necessary enterprise software, middleware, storage and audiovisual, that enable users to access, store, transmit, and manipulate information.  

The term ICT is also used to refer to the convergence of audiovisual and telephone networks with computer networks through a single cabling or link system. There are large economic incentives to merge the telephone network with the computer network system using a single unified system of cabling, signal distribution, and management.

 ICT is an umbrella term that includes any communication device, encompassing radio, television, cell phones, computer and network hardware, satellite systems and so on, as well as the various services and appliances with them such as video conferencing and distance learning.  

ICT is a broad subject and the concepts are evolving.  It covers any product that will store, retrieve, manipulate, transmit, or receive information electronically in a digital form (e.g., personal computers, digital television, email, or robots). 

Agriculture has been categorised as the largest economic sector in most African countries, offering opportunities for poverty alleviation for youth, yet there is still a low percentage of youth involvement in the sector.

This has been attributed to several factors. One major reason for poor youth participation in agriculture, according to research carried out in Tanzania, is low returns linked to a lack of access to agricultural market information.

An IFAD-sponsored study explores how policy makers can promote information and communication technology (ICT) to make agricultural market information accessible to youth in rural Tanzania as producers need to locate potential buyers and identify where people are willing to pay higher prices for their produce.

According to research  conducted by the International Institute of Tropical Agricultural (IITA) -implemented under the CARE project, revealed that access to agricultural market information through mobile phones–ICT can raise returns and make agriculture attractive to more youth in rural Tanzania.

  The study, which is part of several others carried out by young researchers under the CARE project in 10 countries across Africa, has revealed factors that negatively affect women’s intention to use ICT, especially to access market information. The study also showed that cultural stereotypes negatively affect mobile phone use among women, an area that policy makers can consider when promoting ICT among young farmers.

While many governments  in Africa are working on various agriculture interventions for youth, the study has recommended the need to prioritize gender issues and other determinants of intention to promote the use of ICT in agriculture.

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