The inclusion of persons with disabilities in digital industries – The DSAA & Azubi Africa contribution!
An estimated 15% of the world’s population are living with one form of disability or the other, according to a World Health Organization report. This percentage translates into between 110 million and 190 million people. Meanwhile, the prevalence of impairment is estimated to be higher in developing countries. This means that a significant number of disabilities affect one-fifth of the estimated global total Official government figures from the African region, suggest that even though the percentage of people with disabilities is as low as 2-5 percent, in some nations, the figure is likely to rise to 20-22 percent. This is because many reasons contribute to disability in Africa, including starvation and disease, environmental hazards, traffic, and industrial accidents, as well as civil conflict, wars, forcible eviction, and a lack of access to adequate medical care.
While persons with disabilities are prone to have poor socioeconomic status, the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected them, adversely, especially in the areas of education, poor health, low employment, and higher poverty rates.
The need for Digital Inclusion
Given the current technological revolution and the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic, which has made digital literacy important and urgent in all sectors of society, there is no doubt that technology can play a significant role in facilitating social inclusion for persons with disabilities. In addition to addressing other societal demands including education, healthcare, and transportation, technology can be an important tool in ensuring that persons with disabilities are not excluded from the future workforce.
Digital inclusion refers to a sociotechnical process in which individuals, communities, and vulnerable groups gain access to and digital skills to use internet technologies, allowing them to participate in and profit from today’s rapidly evolving information society. Simply put, digital inclusion is all about working with communities to solve challenges of opportunity, access, knowledge, and competence in connection to using technology, particularly the internet.
Barriers to Digital Inclusion in Africa
With regards to digital inclusion for inclusive development, digital skills are an important aspect that cannot be overlooked. However, while the spectrum of digital skills goes beyond acquiring basic skills, such as copying files, using basic formulas on spreadsheets, or performing complex tasks such as computer programming, data analyses, and cloud computing, there exist several barriers to digital skills training in developing countries, especially in Africa. Apart from known challenges ranging from a lack of access to electricity, power outages, high internet costs, and poor infrastructure, many digital skills training institutions in Africa face the following:
- Obtaining persons with disabilities (PWDs) with the right IT backgrounds to apply for training programs is challenging.
- Technical challenges associated with successfully recruiting PWDs for training programs
- Incompatible curricular
- Obtaining high-paying companies to hire trained people with disabilities is difficult owing to a lack of information and awareness of the potential of PWDs.
How DSAA and Azubi Africa address the above challenges
To achieve total digital inclusion in Africa, stakeholders need to foster the development of digital skills throughout the skill spectrum, among other things. This is why the Digital Skills Accelerator Africa e.V. (DSAA), a nonprofit association financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Special Initiative on Training and Job Creation (BMZ), has supported several digital skills training projects in Ghana, Morocco, Rwanda, and Senegal. With over ten partner companies, including GetINNOtized GmbH, DSAA aims to create business opportunities for companies and job opportunities for individuals, particularly disadvantaged groups such as women and persons with disabilities across Africa.
In partnership with the DSAA, GetINNOtized GmbH in its effort to develop talent in the African digital space executes the AZUBI AFRICA education & employment program by collaborating with leading online service providers such as Microsoft and Amazon Web Services. Because the need to provide an opportunity for all is at the heart of the Azubi Africa program, it launched an inclusion initiative in 2020, to provide equal opportunity for people with disabilities (PWD) in an area that had previously been off-limits.
One pragmatic step toward achieving the set goal was the dean of students spearheading inclusion initiatives, which was followed by the subsequent hire of a PWD consultant in July 2020 to serve as an in-house expert for immediate responses to inclusion challenges.
In addition to the foregoing, in preparation for our training, Azubi Africa holds a pretraining call and round table discussions on disability for recruitment leads, provides guidelines on best practices and, trainers are also educated on themes such as unconscious bias, equity, and disability inclusion. Pretraining sessions are also conducted on MS Educator Trainer Academy, Inclusive Classroom, and MS Train-the-Trainer, all of which are designed to keep the team up to date on challenges connected to training people with disabilities.
Bearing in mind the technical challenges associated with PWD recruitment, as well as the need to recruit PWDs with the appropriate ICT background for training programs, Azubi Africa has established long-term relationships with organizations working in the disability space in Ghana to assist them in their recruitment efforts. For instance, Tech-era and the Centre for Employment for Persons with Disabilities (CEPD) continue to play a variety of roles in raising awareness to increase applications from persons with disability.
Furthermore, to ensure that all PWD applicants successfully go through the application phase of the training program, various accommodations are provided at all stages to meet their needs. For instance, for persons with visual impairment, a revised curriculum has been provided, screen-reader-friendly online applications have been introduced and aptitude tests such as cognitive reasoning tests devoid of images, diagrams, and shapes as well as similar pictorial materials are used, and such persons are mostly given an extra 100 percent time to deal with disability-related challenges during the aptitude tests.
It is evident that digital inclusion has the capacity to transform Africa’s society, with benefits stretching across all sectors. We acknowledge, however, that no single institution can close the skills gap by itself. As such, there is an urgent need to build appropriate regulatory, legal, and institutional frameworks in the future. While the above is a great step toward achieving digital inclusion for PWDs, the Digital Skills Accelerator Africa e.V. (DSAA) and Azubi Africa believe that implementing a framework that elucidates the potential of partnerships that combines the skills, knowledge, and resources of institutions offering digital skills training in Africa will play a critical role in driving action on the ground.