ILO forges alliance to unlock opportunities through digital innovation in Kenya

The ILO PROSPECTS programme facilitated an agreement between Learning Lions and Humans in the Loop, creating pathways for young people from host and refugee communities in Kenya to access opportunities in the digital economy.

News | Addis Ababa | 08 February 2024
Geneva, Switzerland (ILO News) – In a virtual ceremony hosted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) PROSPECTS programme on February 5, 2024, Learning Lions and Humans in the Loop signed a partnership agreement that supports young people, including refugees, to access online freelancing and annotation work for businesses developing artificial intelligence (AI) technology in various sectors.

“Kenya, like many other nations, is undergoing a swift transition to digitalization, with a booming information and communication technology (ICT) sector and startup ecosystem creating a demand for skilled workers across industries,” says Stephen Mwangi, ILO PROSPECTS National Project Coordinator.

However, limited access to training, essential infrastructure and formal employment, especially in remote parts of the country, continues to be a challenge to bridging the digital divide. Over the past two years, the ILO has been working with both partners on exploring innovative ways of collaborating together towards a truly inclusive digital transformation.

Under the PROSPECTS programme, Learning Lions is providing digital skills trainings and mentorship to 155 young people living in the Turkana region and Kakuma Refugee Camp, over 50 per cent of whom are women. Co-founders June Helderle and Jan-Marten Veddeler explained that empowering the youth with digital skills holds the potential to transform their lives while contributing to the growth of their communities.

Digital skill training session with Learning Lions
To help the trainees better connect to regional and international markets, a pilot activity was later conducted with the support and expertise of Humans in the Loop to complement their initial training. 40 individuals were selected to undergo upskilling for annotation and online microwork, exploring themes such as ethical AI training and cyber security.

During the ceremony, Hester Gartrell, Chief Impact Officer of Humans in the Loop, announced that the participants have been successfully onboarded and are now transitioning to paid projects with global clients. Tess Valbuena, interim CEO, emphasized that decent digital job creation can indeed be an avenue to self-reliance for conflict-affected and displaced people.

The success of this initial engagement between both partners sparked conversations for scaling up through a longer-term collaboration, leading to this momentous occasion. "We are united by a shared goal to blend digital innovation with opportunity, particularly for traditionally underserved groups," highlighted Zulum Avila, ILO Specialist in Employment Strategies in the Digital Economy.

Opportunity Fund project on the Promotion, inclusion and protection of refugees and host communities in the gig economy is funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands.