The importance of having digital skills in today’s constantly evolving digital world can’t be overstated. New technology brings new ways of working and entirely new jobs that didn’t exist a few years ago. In Africa, where 500 million people are expected to be online by 2020, according to Google, fresh opportunities abound and the need for people with digital skills surges. But as the cost of formal education rises and the job market continues to transform at a rapid pace, it might prove difficult for many to get the training they need. Thus, free and open education is the answer.
There are numerous free digital skills programmes you can take advantage of to build your business or career. Here are some of them.
Google has an ambitious goal: to train 10 million Africans in online skills in the hopes of growing the continent’s digital economy. Digital Skills for Africa is an extension of the company’s programme launched in 2016 to equip one million young Africans with digital skills – a target Google met in 11 months.
The course combines online and in-person training to teach trainees how to grow their small business or build their personal brand online. The portal contains 89 lessons on a wide variety of subjects from search engine optimization to web analytics, social media management, and mobile marketing. Apart from English, the training is carried out in several African languages including Swahili, Hausa, and Zulu so that more people on the continent can gain from the opportunities the internet provides. While the training is available to anyone, Google aims to ensure that at least 40% of the trainees are women.
As part of the programme, Google also plans to train 100,000 software developers in Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa.
Digify Africa is a digital skills training initiative run by Livity Africa, a South African-based non-profit organization. Launched in 2014, and later in Nigeria and Kenya, the programme plays a key role in upskilling the next generation of digital talent on the continent. The programme offers an array of practical workshops on digital marketing, social media, and content creation. It also trains students on Google Search, AdWords, YouTube, and Analytics, placing graduates into full-time jobs or internships upon completion.
The initiative consists of two segments: Digify Pro and Digify Bytes, two programmes that offer real-world practical learning experiences that are delivered by young digital professionals. The former puts trainees through an intensive three-month process in a real workplace, while the latter is a short two-day training programme. It covers modules such as introduction to digital marketing, web design and UX, research and trends, measuring success in digital marketing, and content marketing.
IBM launched Digital Nation Africa (DNA) in February 2017, investing $70 million to boost digital literacy in Africa. The programme, which is undertaken in partnership with African universities, companies, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is aimed at equipping 25 million people on the continent with digital and IT skills over five years.
The initiative is part of IBM’s global goal to create the next generation of skills needed for “New Collar” careers. The technology multi-national describes “New Collar” jobs as “new kinds of careers that do not always require a four-year college degree but rather sought-after skills in cyber-security, data science, artificial intelligence, cloud, and much more.”
The Digital Nation Africa Programme trains participants on several IT-related fields such as programming, cybersecurity, and data science. Trainees also gain business skills including entrepreneurship, critical thinking, and innovation. The cloud-based programme gives users access to a multitude of resources such as mobile apps, web guides, demonstrations, interactive simulations, videos, online assessments, and volunteer mentors.
For journalists, the perpetual evolution of digital technology presents a new set of challenges and opportunity in discovering and sharing stories. To equip African journalists with skills they need to excel in today’s ever-changing world, Code for Africa joined forces with Google News Lab and the World Bank’s Global Media Development Programme to launch a digital skills programme in 12 cities across Africa.
StoryLab Academy offers a combination of online courses and newsroom-based workshops to help amplify African journalists’ voices online. Courses include mobile reporting, mapping, data visualization, multimedia storytelling, and fact-checking. The Academy, launched in June 2017, works with journalists in 12 major cities on the continent – Nairobi, Abuja, Lagos, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, Dakar, Casablanca, Dar es Salaam, Freetown, Kampala, and Yaounde.
The Academy also works with African universities and journalism schools to help nurture the next generation of reporters. StoryLab is also scheduled to launch a Mass Open Online Course to cater for journalists anywhere in Africa.
Microsoft Virtual Academy provides hundreds of free courses for anyone eager to take their computer or IT skills to the next level. Participants gain training on topics including programming, cloud computing, business intelligence, server infrastructure, as well as desktop management and device security. Most of these topics are focused on Microsoft products such as Office 365, Windows apps, SQL server, Sharepoint, and many others.
Anyone can take part in the course, which requires you to sign in with your Microsoft Live ID to keep track of the courses you complete. On each section, you’re awarded points so you can move to different levels of recognition based on your performance. Lessons combine videos, PowerPoint presentations, PDF download, and short quizzes.
The Academy recently introduced a new addition to the courses called Learning Paths. Microsoft describes it as “curated courses brought to you by Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) to help you increase your proficiency in the latest technologies.” Learning Paths are targeted at web developers and IT pros.
Whether you’re looking to gain skills in social media, IT or business management, ALISON offers more than 800 courses to choose from. Founded in 2007, the global learning platform has morphed into a major force in online education. It boasts more than 10 million learners in 195 countries, with Nigeria being the biggest participant in Africa.
ALISON allows students to learn at their own pace and time. Most of the courses are in PowerPoint presentations while some are in video and audio. Some of the digital courses you can do touch on how to build an online business and grow it, how to use Adobe After Effects, Adobe Photoshop and video editing.