EmaSwati Lack Advanced Digital Skills

By Ntokozo Nkambule

A World Bank Group Report Titled ‘Digital Economy Diagnostic Eswatini’ says there is an urgent need for the country’s government to establish comprehensive policies and implementation plans for digital skills development, both to ensure its population becomes fully digitally literate and to nurture a digitally competent workforce.

The Study is part of the Digital Economy for Africa Initiative- an initiative that forms part of the World Bank Group’s for the African Union’s Digital Moonshot for Africa; which aspires to see every African individual, business, and government to be digitally enabled by 2030.

The report notes that as it stands digital skills in the country are significantly constrained by limited educational curricula and quality training programmes.

“This is further hindered by the lack of digital infrastructure in educational institutions and the high costs of internet connectivity, both of which pose a significant barrier to online and remote learning, particularly for higher education.”

The report makes an example of the digital skills challenges in the automotive industry.

“In the automotive industry, the study found that the country is struggling to keep up with technological changes, including continuous evolutions in car makes, models, and associated functionalities. Eswatini lacks individuals who have advanced car servicing skills, skills for wiring and computer box repairs and automatic gearbox repairs, and a lack of knowledge and innovation on newer engines and car models, as well as a lack of auto-electrical skills.”

The World Bank defines digital skills as an individual’s capacity to access, manage, understand, integrate, communicate, evaluate, and create information safely and appropriately. The World Banking group notes that skills are often understood in simplistic terms, for instance, the ability to use a mobile phone for a simple transaction or to access and surf the internet; or, at the other end, to carry out coding and software programming.

The Diagnostic Report reveals that the digital skills faced by the country are at a foundational level.

“Firstly, only 10 percent of primary schools and just over 50 percent of secondary schools have access to the internet, and many of these have slow connections. Secondly, many schools do not have computers for students to use; of the schools that do have computers, it is not clear how many are functional. Third, very few teachers in primary and secondary schools are qualified in ICT, though there is an ongoing training program to raise teacher competencies in ICT.”

The report continues to outline the challenges faced by the country in the digital skills challenge.

“The fourth challenge is that few schools integrate ICT within teaching and learning processes, and this limited the number of schools that were able to use online learning systems during the Covid-19 pandemic. Fifth, there is no information available about the level of digital skills among primary and secondary school teachers. Lastly, there are insufficient rapid skilling initiatives available for out-of-school youth and adults to learn foundational digital skills, which is seen as necessary for all citizens in a lower middle-income country such as Eswatini.”

To address these challenges the World Bank Group has advised implementing the following;

1.     Develop an ICT and Education Policy and Implementation Plan

2.     A coordinated action plan is needed that draws together multiple stakeholders, led by the Ministry of Education and Training and Ministry of ICT, to define.

3.     Connect higher education and TVET institutions to a Research and Education Network (REN) as part of the digital master plan.

4.     Pilot interventions at the secondary school level to build digital literacy skills, particularly in schools that serve poor communities. 

Share With Friends