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05 May 2015

Connecting Jamaican youth to the digital economy

Mariana Leytón



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At YoGobierno, we talk a lot about the ways in which new ICTs are changing the relationship between governments and citizens and allowing governments to be more efficient and participatory. But digital tools bring opportunities that can boost a country’s development when implemented on an individual level as well—and governments can play a key role in doing so.

Jamaica, a country that suffers from a high level of youth unemployment and underemployment, is a great example of this. Youth in the island has proven it has the talent to use digital skills and tools to spur their careers and, in doing so, the island’s economy.

The digital economy offers a wide range of opportunities to youth around the world, and Jamaica’s youth in particular has several advantages to work with companies demanding digital jobs: They speak English, they share cultural perspectives (and time zones) with major markets, and have proven to be remarkably creative. Via the digital economy, youth in Jamaica can access global employment opportunities in crowdsourcing (online collaboration to find solutions for large projects launched by companies, often involving tasks that are broken into component parts), “microwork” (a crowdsourcing platform where users, often in emerging markets, do very simple small tasks for which computers lack aptitude for low amounts of money), and “e-lancing” (professional services offered via online portals for clients around the world).

KingstOOn


Globally, the animation industry has a value of roughly US$220 billion and is estimated to grow at a 9% annual rate. Animation skills are transportable, so Jamaican youth had the potential to access this market remotely—all that was needed was proper training and resources (including access to international methods of payment), which is where the KingstOON festival came in. In 2013, the government of Jamaica, along with the World Bank, organized the festival to shed light to this industry. National and international private companies learned about the potential of the Jamaican youth, while young people learned how to work in the digital economy. Contracts and learning opportunities emerged—including programs and scholarships designed to train youth in 2D and 3D animation—resulting in the creation of new jobs and networks. A new industry was born.

Digital Jam

Animation is not the only industry in which youth can take part through the internet. Digital Jam 2.0 and Digital Jam 3.0 were organized—once more by the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining (MSTEM) and the World Bank—as a way to promote ideas that could work in the digital world. Organized as mobile app competitions, these events allowed young people across the island to meet each other, work out concrete ideas, learn how to pitch them, and work towards getting investments.

Get up, Start up

startup jamaicaThe accomplishments of the two previous initiatives set up the grounds for a new era for Jamaican youth: the startup era. StartUp Jamaica was set up as a physical hub to strengthen a viable tech entrepreneurship ecosystem. Understanding that there were no lack of ideas, MSTEM set up the hub to allow young people to have a space in which to develop ideas into business models, receive help from mentors and have direct contact with angel investors. One of these ideas was shared at YoGobierno by Winston Wilkins, who founded StartUpRobot—a platform to allow quick business registration for everyone across the island.

Most recently, three other startups that leveraged the power of the hub have been offered a trip to Jordan to join an accelerator program for their companies. This program is sponsored by Oasis 500, a leading investment company that provides seed and early stage funding, as well as entrepreneurship training, mentorship and business incubation for technology ventures. The CEO, Youssef Hamidaddin, explained that linking Jamaica and Jordan through investment in startups is a strategic choice to consolidate similar markets that face similar problems.

Crimebot, which provides users with live updates of incidents in their vicinity, through notifications, hot-spot illustrations and the anonymous submission of crime reports (and we’ve talked about before); RevoFarm, which provides farmers with strategic information in terms of climate alerts, buying and selling produce, and networking with other farmers; and Vinelist, a social shopping platform, are already in Jordan going through the program.

These initiatives have already produced a number of direct and indirect results: from new startups, new animation studios, new contracts and new jobs (an estimated of 15,000 Jamaican youth are expected to benefit from new jobs overall) to new angel investing groups to developments in private equity markets. As these new projects evolve, they are sure to have a huge impact in Jamaica’s economy—all through a great combination of a government willing to invest in its energetic and creative youth and the power of the internet to connect people and ideas through global networks.

 

To follow up with these initiatives, you can follow Digital Jam 3.0 on Facebook, and StartUp Jamaica on Facebook and Twitter @StartUpJA2014.

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