Socioeconomic Diversity in Technology: A Benefit for Sure

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the need for connectivity to continue studying, working and interacting with others, in spite of the confinement ordered under health measures. It also exposed that digital permeates our daily lives. The activities that continued were those that had already commenced the so called “digital transformation process.” The same happened with jobs. In this context, providing digital skill training to young people, in particular, those in a situation of vulnerability, became more important than ever. Learning about the new jobs is essential for inclusion in a labor world that is undergoing dramatic changes.

The talent demand in the new technologies sector in Latin America is permanent, and there is not enough labor supply: an absurdity in a region afflicted by unemployment. That is why there are several initiatives engaged in providing digital skill training. They seek to train vulnerable young people according to the profiles currently required by companies. And organizations that take a bet on diversity end up being more inclusive both inwards and outwards.

The world is digital and also diverse. “The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow,” said Bill Gates, Microsoft’s founder, many many years ago. It is the set phrase of The Marconi Society, an association that fosters connectivity through advanced technologies as well as digital inclusion as a paradigm of innovation. Their programs seek to cause a social impact in order to reach digital equity.

57% of the Latin American population has access to Internet, and there are still more than 210 million people without connection in the territory. But, in addition, there is another gap between inclusion and exclusion, the use gap: so far, 39% of the region inhabitants are still not active users of technology, according to data from GSMA Latin America.

Semillero Digital is one of those many initiatives that gives youth training on new trades related to technology. Working with several NGO, it provides labor insertion programs supplemented with socio-emotional support.

“We believe that the participation of students in Semillero generates wealth in the work environment for two reasons. First, it has been shown that the more diverse the teams, the more innovation. Diversity is real when young males and females educated at private universities interact with peers from other contexts. Second, digital teams require resilience capacity, adaptability, willpower and learning, and that is something that the young men and women at Semillero Digital already have. They come from environments with limited opportunities, from fighting from further back than others, from knocking more doors for them to open; when you know their stories, we may see that they have the potential to develop at companies,” explained Demian Niedfeld, co-founder and alma mater of Semillero.

Arbusta is another organization focused on developing talent at the regional level. This initiative, with offices in Montevideo (Uruguay), Buenos Aires and Rosario (Argentina), Medellín (Colombia) and Miami (United States), seeks to give young people training on the skills required in the information technology (IT) industry, taking into account the personal and social skills they already have.

Martina Deluchi, the manager of Capital Humano, explains that the Arbusta model “aims at creating a social and economic positive impact. We find that the technology world had a great need of talent. A fictional talent war arose; Arbusta broke that paradigm and started another paradigm of abundance, in the understanding that talent is universal, that it is everywhere. Opportunities are not universal, however. Arbusta gives that first opportunity to millions of young people in Latin America, who face several obstacles to enter the technology labor market.”

Deluchi further adds: “These young people we hire come with many skills that are required by the industry, such as resilience, creativity, adaptability, which are not necessarily learned when following a university course of studies, but which are characteristic of centennials, the generation we seek to give employment. From there, we generate a win-win situation, because those are skills that give quality to the services we provide to our customers.”

To allure that talent, Arbusta does not work with the traditional CV and seeks to identify the potential of each individual: their learning, commitment and resilience capacities, which are highly valued in the market in general and in the technology industry in particular. “As they are young persons that face barriers to enter the labor world, in the selection process we do not focus on their previous experience or on their studies, but on their potential; we use tools and techniques that help us understand that potential,” explains the executive.

Arbusta began when it detected that there were many digital training course in the market for vulnerable young people, but that then labor insertion was not so easy. This company decided, thus, to focus on giving actual employment opportunities, and that is why “one of the most important values is to learn by working.” “We do not have long training programs. We believe experience is the best way to learn,” highlights Deluchi.

“We support the experience with training and education that do not only include technical skills but also socio-emotional skills, which are essential to support and develop the work,” she adds.

Crack The Code is an organization that teaches programming to kids using a diversity approach. “In our academy we are aware that teaching should be based on gender and inter cultural approaches. Thus, we seek to form groups with boys and girls to mitigate the bias that programming is only for men and, instead, we seek to empower all of our students to achieve their goals, regardless of whether they are man or women. Furthermore, virtual reality has helped us reach more countries and, therefore, our students have the opportunity to learn about different cultures and create little learning communities. We believe that programming is a language that may connect people and cause positive changes both at the personal and at the social level,” affirms Estefanía Granados, the Marketing manager of Crack The Code. 

This organization often participates in different social projects aimed at promoting the development of digital skills in low-income students. In this case, programming helps them develop digital skills and have projects in which to use their knowledge and through which to achieve their goals. 

The technology gap exposed the inequalities more starkly. Thus, digital inclusion is a way to reduce an important part of the social debt. That is why it is necessary to broaden the perspective. “I believe organizations still have to focus on vulnerable population. Although they do, and there are leading cases, this has not reached the expected scale yet. It is nothing new to say that diverse teams achieve better results. However, many times this diversity is limited to a gender, geography or discipline,” says Francisco Michref, director of Public Affairs and Sustainability at Globant.

Michref considers that “incorporating people from vulnerable socioeconomic contexts adds yet another cross-cutting factor which is particularly nurturing for the team and which challenges preconceived ideas,” and highlights that those who come from those environments, once they join a company, stand out due to their commitment and desire to learn.

“The challenge for the companies is that, many times, training and incorporating people who live in vulnerable environments entail an additional effort or at least takes longer. Companies must have the willingness and the political decision to take a bet for this type of diversity,” concluded Michref.

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