Better futures for poor youth through education and employment
A young girl working at a computer.

Digital Divide Data (DDD) operates an IT-enabled services business with the purpose of training and employing disadvantaged youth in Cambodia, Lao and Kenya. DDD’s three service lines:

  1. Records Management;
  2. Digital Publishing; and
  3. Digital Libraries unlock and extend the value of data, documents, publications and archives, making them searchable and accessible online, on mobile devices, or in any information system.

 

DDD delivers these services on the foundation of a social mission model: DDD recruits talented poor youth in developing countries, typically high school graduates from rural areas. After an intensive recruitment process that evaluates candidates’ aptitude, motivation and financial need, successful individuals are invited to join DDD’s training. This program provides them with marketable IT skills, English learning, and other workplace skills. Successful trainees are hired to work full-time as Data Management Operators at DDD, and others find jobs in the private sector, government and NGOs. Data Management Operators work 6 hours per day on client projects and attend school for the rest of the day. DDD offers scholarships to enable them to pursue degrees at local universities.

The challenge of providing access to continuous education

The map above reflects the countries where DDD is working and shows the average rates in these countries (1998-2008) of preprimary, primary, secondary and tertiary school enrollment rates.

The visualization also presents detailed (per year) school enrollment rates in these countries. Data shows a big drop in Cambodia, Lao, and Kenya in the number of people that, after having taken primary education, continue to pursue secondary and then tertiary education. This is the segment of the population that DDD targets. Average rates in Kenya are 71.15% for primary education, 43.37% for secondary education, and 2.8% for tertiary education. A similar pattern is repeated in Lao (81.1%, 39.8%, and 6.1%, respectively), and in Cambodia (92.5%, 27.97%, and 3.7%, respectively). Although a decline in secondary and tertiary enrollment rates is to be expected, the decline is considerable larger in these countries when comparing it with the enrollment rates for High Income Countries (96.0%, 89.4%, and 62.1%, respectively), and Middle Income Countries (87.1%, 55.7%, and 19.2%, respectively). In the case of Kenya (for tertiary education) and Cambodia (for secondary and tertiary education), enrollment rates are also lower than those of Low Income Countries (68.2%, 28.3%, and 5.15%, respectively).

The social benefits of a model combining tertiary education and IT employment

Visual representation of the DDD model.

 

DDD’s model is based on:

  1. finding the best and the brightest poor who would otherwise not have access to further training or education (these youth have the highest marginal benefit from the program),
  2. providing tertiary education leading to a degree or certificate training the poor in skills (English language, computer skills) that they can use to make a relatively high income, and
  3. providing experience working in a large enterprise, creating skilled middle managers.

 

DDD’s focus on social impact delivers lasting change in the income and opportunities for the youth they train and employ. On average, DDD’s alumni earn more than $260 per month, more than four times the average wage in Cambodia. DDD estimates that the lifetime earnings of each of their program participants increase by $100,000 compared to what they would have earned without DDD, and that means increased lifetime earnings of more than $40 million cumulatively for all DDD’s graduates to date. DDD’s graduates are often the primary breadwinners in their household, and they send younger siblings to school and secure housing and healthcare for their families. As the largest employer of people with IT skills in Cambodia and Lao, DDD also has a regional impact by developing human resources and promoting an export-oriented industry that contributes to the growth of the local economy.