How Can Technology Help Us Understand and Reduce Youth Unemployment?

The digital economy has taken over our world. Upstarts like Uber, Airbnb, Kickstarter and Square are proving that we live in a world where technology pioneers and the monetization of disruptive technologies win consumers over with innovative thinking.

This raises the question of how such market solutions can be used to tackle some of society's most pressing issues -- specifically, the 60% of young people in developing regions who are either unemployed, not studying, or engaged in irregular employment, according to ILO. Africa is a prominent example of this, with its exploding youth population.

Judith Rodin, President of The Rockefeller Foundation, suggests that the number of young people between the ages 15 and 24 in Africa will double from 200 million to 400 million by 2045. Sadly, based on current projections, only 3-5 million jobs will be created for the 10-12 million youth eligible to enter the formal economy annually, leaving approximately half of these youth with little prospect for employment. I suggest that technology can be used to turn the tide on the continued economic marginalization of young people.

In today's economy, civil society organizations are often left to relieve the pain felt by these marginalized youth, women and children, while government points to the private sector to create the necessary jobs and the private sector in turn points to the government to create and implement the necessary policies to allow it to create jobs. But no one has asked which jobs must be created, for who, how and why -- especially when it comes to tackling these inequalities.

Perhaps digital tools are able to provide insights and an understanding of the future of youth empowerment and employment. Firstly, data collection (including personal, market and other sources of big data) must be improved, and so must the analysis of that data. Secondly, decision-making must then be based on the employability of the person, in terms of soft skill attributes. As digital tools become more efficient in solving daily productivity problems and more adaptive to learned situations, we'll progress to a stage where digital tools can be deployed to solve some of society's greatest challenges, including unemployment and/or employability.

Social networks have been doing this for advertising since their inception, leading to extremely successful business models. Can the same practices not be applied to civil society organizations, by designing digital tools that effectively address their unique requirements?

An example of what is being done

Coca Cola is pioneering a bold strategy to work out how to add value to their extensive business and supply chain network, through a programme called 5by20. 5by20 is The Coca-Cola Company's global commitment to enable the economic empowerment of 5 million women entrepreneurs across the company's value chain by 2020.

Another overlooked solution is placing youth with local civil society organizations, many of which seek support by means of volunteerism. This is arguably one of the most impactful ways to build social cohesiveness. To this effect, it has been proven in the US and in the UK that 'volunteerism' is able to increase a young person's employability by up to 40%.

How the Global Shapers are using technology to solve this

After becoming a winner of the Global Shapers Community 'Coca Cola Shaping a Better Future Challenge' at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2014, the Cape Town Hub of the Global Shapers Community was able to successfully launch The Social Collective, a Global Shaper Hub project turned for-profit technology start-up.

The Social Collective is now developing a digital Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) tool which makes M&E more meaningful -- to organizations and individuals -- by providing specialist software and consulting services. Monitoring and Evaluation (reporting) is required by donors of civil society organizations. However, few digital tools exist to increase productivity and provide analysis of data being collected for improved program management, or for beneficiaries to track their personal development and employability. The Social Collective responds to this need.

As a digital tool that is available on mobile phone and even via SMS, The Social Collective gives civil society organizations access to their data so that they can gain insight into the livelihood, personal and professional development of individuals, which gives rigor to intuition. Beneficiaries, on the other hand, can easily track the skills that they have acquired and the hours spent acquiring each skill. Then policymakers and the private sector can begin to answer the question: which jobs must be created, for who, how and why.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and The World Economic Forum to mark the Forum's Annual Meeting 2015 (in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, Jan. 21-24).Read all the posts in the series here.