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April 9, 2017

Technology and the youth


April 9, 2017

The future of Pakistan is inextricably linked with its youth. They are the architects and builders of its destiny and the repository of its aspirations and dreams. They have what it takes to take this nation to new heights of glory.

At a time when the world grapples with the phenomenon of aging populations, our youth bulge, with majority of our population aged between 15-29 years, presents a whole range of possibilities for growth and development.

Pakistan is lucky to have its population matrix defined by its youth bulge. However, in order to optimally benefit from the youth’s talent and energy, we need to make critical investments in their empowerment. Our youth needs an enabling environment in which they can hone their skills and polish their talents. In this way they will be able to respond to challenges effectively.

There is no better way of empowering the youth than liberating them economically through the provision of gainful employment opportunities. Unemployment is one of the major issues facing our nation. Both our public and private sectors are unable to generate enough job opportunities to accommodate hundreds of thousands of graduates that are joining the job market every year. This is due to the increasing rate at which our population is growing.

The issue of unemployment becomes all the more poignant and critical when seen in the context of a vast disconnect between the demands of markets and the skill-set of our graduating students. The quality of human resources our universities by and large produce leaves much to be desired. This human resource does not have the right kind of education to be absorbed in sectors that are on the upward growth trajectory.

It is unfortunate that we are more focused on producing generalists who become a strain on the national economy as their ultimate goal in life is to seek jobs – most preferably the government ones. This omnipresent culture of seeking government jobs has killed the creativity of our youth. It has robbed them of the out-of-box approach that can shape their career goals. It has in a lot of ways limited their focus.

I believe that among other things, this desire for government jobs represents a failure of our educational system at the higher level. Ideally, the places of higher learning are supposed to prepare our youth for bigger roles in line with national aspirations. The youth needs to convert their potential energies into kinetic forces that will make them capable of shaping national landscapes.

Addressing this disconnect remains a vital challenge to making the drive for national development sustainable. The perils of the increasing rate of unemployment are infinite for the state and society. This is particularly so when the extremist forces are on the lookout to exploit such youth for their nefarious ends.

This brings us to the launch of Punjab chief minister’s E-Rozgar Programme, which aims to enable our youth and fresh graduates to develop critical soft skills. It is geared towards exposing them to online freelancing opportunities available on the information technology platforms.

Under this programme, 40 E-Rozgar centres have been set up in all the 36 districts of Punjab. The objective of the programme is to enhance employability as well as employment opportunities for young graduates. The idea is to provide training opportunities to the youth and students for self-employment by using internet-based freelancing. The government will assist the youth in earning a sustainable income.

Under this initiative of the government, 10,000 freelancers will be produced per annum across the province. The services to be provided at the E-Rozgar centres include trainings, provision of co-working spaces, 24-hour mentoring, development of a comprehensive understanding of freelancing and sharing of freelance success stories.

The idea characterising this programme is to empower our youth to become job creators instead of job seekers. It is aimed at making them financially independent through the provision of online opportunities leading to upward economic and social mobility. Here, they can equip themselves with the necessary skill-set required for online freelancing and exposure. It will make them self-employed and self-sustainable in income generation for themselves and their families.

By coming across a whole range of opportunities and options globally, our youth can contribute to national development by bringing in foreign exchange. The field of online freelancing offers amazing prospects for growth to our girls and women who find it hard to adapt to public careers for various reasons. Here they can still explore limitless possibilities while staying at home.

The mushroom growth of information and communication technologies has revolutionised the way we think and plan our actions, both at individual and collective levels. The potential of IT sector in changing lives is limitless.

This calls for a paradigm shift in our thinking. We have to starve the distractions of our youth and feed their focus. We have to inculcate in them the longing for developing entrepreneurial skills. We have to make them job creators instead of job seekers. The revolution brought about by information technology is here to stay. The responsibility of how we leverage it to our advantage by using it as an agent of change lies with us.

In today’s hi-tech world, it is the power of an idea that shapes the lives and careers of individuals and subsequently, the overall direction of nations. If an individual has an idea to sell, he can earn millions of dollars and employ hundreds of people. There are scores of examples to prove that people have set up companies with small amounts of money. Powered by an innovative idea, they ended up converting these small start-ups into multinationals.

The empowerment of youth through technology is a fantastic idea that needs to be explored and built further.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @Amanat222

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