Skills are not binary: Nuances in the relationship between ICT skills and employability

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Information Technologies and International Development





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In regions with developing or transitioning economies, information and communication technology (ICT) skills are expected to provide potential employees a significant edge in securing comparatively high-paying jobs. However, ICT skills are not binary (i.e., there are ranges and levels of ICT skills), nor are the effects of ICT skills common across all contexts. To plan international development efforts that have the most impact on improving people's employability, we need more information about the relationship between ICT skills and employment, such as which ICT skills and what level of skill are sufficient for improving employability. In this article, we examine ICT skills and employment in the context of a transitioning economy, using the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan as a case study. Findings indicate that while ICT skills can be a predictor of employment and are associated with higher income, the level of ICT skill required to attain these jobs is not as high as one might expect. Skills that are considered basic computer literacy in the developed world are, in many developing and transitioning countries, considered sophisticated skill sets held by small segments of the population. In a developing world context, these skill sets are associated with high prestige jobs, especially when they are combined with other factors, such as higher education. This finding has interesting implications for designing development programs to improve employability, suggesting that training efforts should focus on what are considered advanced ICT skills in the local context.

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