Enabling Employment: CTG collaborates with GIZ
In a country where literacy is low, the society is highly stratified, and patronage structures and knowing the ‘right people’ are instrumental in even getting to know about employment openings, many people are rendered at a great disadvantage. Foremost among these are marginalized communities and disabled, semi-literate or illiterate people who often have no access to employment opportunities. In view of this, ITU’s Center for Technology in Governance (CTG) is working in collaboration with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) to create a system which overrides these considerations by forging a direct link between employers and potential employees.
This project will build upon an earlier project known as Polly, which is a speech-based service for people who cannot read or write. Polly is an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) based entertainment service which also connects people to employment opportunities and facilitates them in developing a comfort level with technology. Using a basic cell phone, any user could call a certain toll-free number, record a message and send it on to five friends with five different kinds of voice manipulations. There are different voices for the interest of people and this aided users in using and exploring IVR technology. Polly also gives its users the option to listen to jobs opportunities through their phones, and they could also share these with their friends. Polly was launched in May 2012 and spread virally; it soon reached 165,000 people and successfully engaged nearly 34,000 of them in browsing and sharing job and training opportunities.
CTG’s current project will redesign the scope of the Polly Project in order to ensure that it reaches out to a larger population than initially planned. Based on the success of Polly, this new project will work proactively to engage even more users, and link them to not only employment but also to skill development and vocational skills training opportunities through an integrated telephony/web portal. The functions of recruitment, initial assessment and enrolment into employment and vocational training programs may also be carried out through this efficient and easily accessible telephone portal. In this sense, the portal will act just like an employment office; only that it will be available via telephone and therefore will be easily accessible a vast majority of the population.
The direct aim of this project is to empower marginalized, disabled and low-literate segments of the society with a solution which will connect them directly to potential employers through their cell-phones. Mobile phone penetration in Pakistan is approximately 74%, and it is estimated that 30% of the country’s population is illiterate (the definition of literacy here being the ability to read a newspaper and write a simple letter). The ubiquitous usage of cell phones is being used by the project to facilitate such people. Depending on a need-assessment study being carried out, this project may also directly facilitate members of marginalized communities by distributing free vouchers for vocational training opportunities among them through the telephone portal with the view to empower them through skills training.
Employers and vocational training centres will also benefit from this project in two ways; firstly, it will forge links between them and their target audiences, resulting in lower overhead costs. Secondly, both employers and training centres will be guided to interact with target audiences optimally to further enhance their capacity-building.
This project is currently at the end of its planning stage, and shall be put into implementation next month. ITU faculty member and Co-Director of the Innovations for Poverty Alleviation Lab (IPAL) Samia Razaq will be advising CTG on this project. Ms. Razaq was also among the developers of Polly and has experience of developing technologies aimed at helping marginalized people.