Microsoft, partners to equip over 50,000 SME owners with digital skills by end of 2021




We live in interesting times. Technology has transformed each and every aspect of our lives – from the way we cook our favourite meals, how we communicate (both as individuals and within companies), to how we perform our duties at work (whether from our homes or designated office premises), to the way we learn, both for school-going children and adults pursuing professional qualifications.

The crucial role and key functions which technology plays in our everyday lives and the jobs we do (plus organisations we work with) has just become more evident during the current pandemic.

And the current Covid-19 pandemic has also made both individuals and organisations to rely even more on technology in order to enhance efficiency in their operations, mainly through the various digital tools which can be utilised. This has led to an upsurge in the use of digital technologies – for e-learning to virtual meetings and online collaboration for corporate organisations.

(TOP: James Irungu of Jatreteh Auto demonstrates the use of digital skills he has acquired through the Future Ni Digital Initiative, a partnership programme between Microsoft, Stanbic Bank and Micro and Small Enterprises Authority – MSEA. Looking on from left, Lorna Kanyuga, Philanthropies Lead, Microsoft; Henry Rithaa, CEO, MSEA; and Pauline Mbayah, Head, Stanbic Bank Foundation. The programme aims to equip 50,000 SMEs with relevant IT skills to grow their businesses by the end of this year). 

With phrases like ‘new normal’ quickly gaining currency, people are not even sure whether everything will get back to how they were pre-pandemic or whether they’ve been transformed together by Covid-19.

In recognition of the possibility and fact that the post-pandemic world poses a larger demand for the skills needed to navigate, whether on computers or mobile devices.

And in anticipation of this, recognition of this reality, and in a bid to prepare Kenya’s small businesses to adapt to the new normal, Microsoft recently unveiled a digital skills training initiative with Stanbic Kenya Foundation and the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Development in partnership with its agencies.

The new programme, called Future Ni Digital initiative, a digital literacy, entrepreneurship, and career skills program, Microsoft and its partners aim to train over 50,000 owners of Micro Small Enterprises (MSEs) across Kenya and equip them with requisite digital skills by the end of this year.

The World Economic Forum has noted that ‘Technology use, monitoring and control’ will be among the ten most in-demand skills by 2025.

The basic skills incorporated in the Future Ni Digital programme include the ability to use computers, how to use computer programs such as word processors, to navigate on the internet and to use communication tools such as social media and email. In addition to these, more advanced skills such as Coding, Cloud computing and Data Analytics can be an added advantage in career and business.

“Initiatives such as Future Ni Digital are preparing individuals and businesses for a more digitally connected world, enabling them to take advantage of the tools that can enable them to thrive,” says Kendi Ntwiga, Kenya Country Manager, Microsoft.

The Future Ni Digital training takes a blended approach, combining in-person training sessions at government centres, through an online learning platform, FutureNiDigital.org.

“This year, the program seeks to equip 50,000 learners with digital skills; train 1,000 government trainers; and have 2,000 placed in employment,” explains Kanyuga. “The long-term goal is to build the capacity of government centres to enable them to continue running digital skilling training for years to come.”

To further support the initiative, Microsoft has provided a grant to the implementation partner, the Africa Centre for Women in ICT (ACWICT), to enable them to facilitate the training of government trainers. The organization has also deployed an online learning platform, FutureNiDigital.org, in collaboration with Stanbic Bank Foundation and are working on a job platform as well.

“At Microsoft, our goal is to empower people and organizations to do more. We developed this initiative to enable individuals and businesses to use technology to reach their career and business goals,” adds Kendi.

“The government has embraced digital transformation as key pillar for Economic growth. Let us come together as stakeholders in different areas to add value, knowledge and reach in promoting digital literacy and skilling programs,” Kendi concludes.

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