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I wholeheartedly believe in the power of self-learning. This conviction comes from a very personal place. When my daughter was in grade two, I wasn’t happy with the math curriculum at her school. At that time, I was traveling a lot for work and, though I may have wanted to, I could not direct the learning I saw she was missing. So, I started looking for a curriculum that she […]

I wholeheartedly believe in the power of self-learning. This conviction comes from a very personal place. When my daughter was in grade two, I wasn’t happy with the math curriculum at her school. At that time, I was traveling a lot for work and, though I may have wanted to, I could not direct the learning I saw she was missing. So, I started looking for a curriculum that she could use on her own and learn by herself.

I looked everywhere.

I even made my own worksheets, but found them terribly boring and repetitive. I sought out online resources and talked to peers. Eventually, I came across Everyday Mathematics. It didn’t take much digging before I knew my daughter could use these to learn.

That’s exactly what happened. No matter where I was in the world, we would come up with monthly plans and then check in every week to see how she was progressing. She was excited and engaged by the material, eventually taking control of the monthly plans herself. She quickly showed not just how much she was learning, but how excited she was to do so.

Self-learning at iMerit seeks the same results: motivation, self-empowerment, and growth. Many of our team members may not have a growth mindset given their past financial backgrounds. Often, they have learned to reject hope, and that hopelessness has become a coping mechanism for their lives.

To inject hope for growth into their lives by showing them they can actually learn something almost completely by themselves is to me the biggest way of enabling social change.

Here are a few ways we engage our employees in their own self-learning processes.

1) Put learning in the contract

All of our employees know that at iMerit they are not only expected to work, but to learn as well. They know that a successful employee here is not just one who performs well, but who grows while doing so. It’s all part of the terms of their work with us.

2) Measure the results of learning programs

We’re a company obsessed with data, so why would we not use that internally, too? We track weekly learning on each worker in our company-wide platform. Everyone from the newest hire to the CEO are invested in monitoring these metrics, and building an environment in which we can watch them improve.

3) Acknowledge the trade-off

iMerit is a company that, just like others, reports to investors, and to a bottom line. But we also serve a greater social good, and deliver to a second bottom line of impact. Delivering to both of these well means building a system that works so that it can create impact while generating revenue. It means we must acknowledge that there might be tension – at first – between a learning team that wants to train our employees as often as possible, and a delivery team that wants to have employees working as often as possible. At the end of the day, we strive for a system that meets both of these needs. One where learning creates even better delivery outcomes. It’s truly a win-win.

4) Use a platform that works in your context

At iMerit, we love self-learning methods because they are great for contexts in which motivation abounds, but resources like teachers and time may not. For us, our self-learning platform incorporates learners, learning assistants, subject matter experts, and contextual FAQs. Together, these tools and resources allow learners to answer their own questions in a way that flows with their learning. Other organizations may benefit from MOOCs (massive open online courses), which have shown huge success in developing contexts – over 50% of users in the developing world complete courses or receive certification, compared to only 5-10% in developed countries (IREX).

We are here to shatter existing models and demonstrate that the future of work is bright.

To do this, incorporating learning is absolutely fundamental for us. It isn’t easy, and requires decisively including previously marginalized populations. But it is definitely worth it.

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Youth around the world face challenges previous generations have not. No matter how much work they put in, many graduate ill-equipped for careers. Educational systems around the world aren’t reliably preparing youth for today’s careers, much less those of tomorrow. This lack of job-ready skills holds true in the U.S., just as much as it does in developing contexts. These challenges are not only for youth or educational systems to […]

Youth around the world face challenges previous generations have not. No matter how much work they put in, many graduate ill-equipped for careers. Educational systems around the world aren’t reliably preparing youth for today’s careers, much less those of tomorrow. This lack of job-ready skills holds true in the U.S., just as much as it does in developing contexts.

These challenges are not only for youth or educational systems to tackle.

These challenges are relevant to any company wanting to stay current, grow and thrive.

So what do today’s employers and companies need to do? And when they do address these challenges, what’s in it for them?

If you want to recruit, retaining and grow your young talent, training & ongoing development are key. For us at iMerit, this means that when we bring on new staff, their learning journey is far from over. All of our employees, from executives to newest hires, are expected to continue learning and gaining skills both on their own and with our support.

Employers must integrate skill-development into their company culture; when they do, everyone comes out ahead.

In practice, this learning is guided by a dedication to integration and usefulness. We need an integrated approach so that our workers can both work and learn. Also, we focus relevant skills like English and technology to ensure learning can be applied. Over the years, we’ve taken best practices from distance learning programs, MOOCs, self-directed learning programs and more to see what works best in our context.

The outcome is an integrated, self-directed system that allows our employees to earn a living while learning, deliver fantastic results while gaining critical skills. By empowering them to be self-driven learners, we see our employees quickly develop their own problem solving skills, and strengthen their own motivation.

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The results have shown in company culture, individual learning outcomes, and client results.

The same skill-building that enables our workers to build datasets for machine vision algorithms contributes to their personal skill sets. Each extra unit of productivity delivered to our clients is reflective of an extra unit of skill-development and personal growth. By integrating learning into company DNA, we’ve seen:

  • Industry-best levels of retention (95% and above!)
  • An increase in employee-driven initiatives
  • Employee-driven recognition of colleagues’ progress and achievements
  • Improved project metrics from beginning to end of an engagement
  • Energetic pursuit of new trends and technologies

For companies around the world, integrating skill-development into company culture can look different. It might be a more informal focus communicated from managers to their reports; it could be a company-wide initiative to take a particular online course; it could manifest as an increased budget for professional development.

No matter what, we are certain that technologies will continue changing at an increasing clip. We know we want each of our employees to feel motivated to contribute their best.

Learning is the only way to keep up.

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The effects the Internet and information and communication technologies (ICTs) have had and can continue to have on the world are undoubtedly huge. A decade ago, a diverse group of stakeholders came together at the UN Conference, “World Summit on the Information Society” (WSIS) to discuss just how Internet and ICTs could change our world. This year, the WSIS met again to consider the deep and wide impact ICT can […]

The effects the Internet and information and communication technologies (ICTs) have had and can continue to have on the world are undoubtedly huge. A decade ago, a diverse group of stakeholders came together at the UN Conference, “World Summit on the Information Society” (WSIS) to discuss just how Internet and ICTs could change our world. This year, the WSIS met again to consider the deep and wide impact ICT can have for development. Opinions of governments, businesses, civil society, engineers and more were brought together to explore how ICTs and the Internet can catalyze improvement in global diversity and equality, socioeconomic development, disaster preparedness and response, environmental stewardship, and more.

However, there are big barriers to future progress. Digital divides persist along many axes, despite coordinated efforts to remedy them.

One axis of this digital divide is that of gender. The ITU states that for every five men in tech jobs, there is only one woman. The technology ministries of ITU member states are only ten percent women; these countries’ regulatory authorities are only seven percent women. In developing countries, sixteen percent fewer women than men use the internet. The difference is explained by access – both physical and cultural – by education, and by skill training.

Work to address this digital divide continues.

In 2014, UN Women and the ITU teamed up to create the Gender Equality and Mainstreaming in Technology Awards (GEM-Tech) to recognize work done around the world to increase women’s access to and participation in ICTs. iMerit was honored with the 2014 award for Women’s Economic Empowerment for our work changing the lives of young women through tech training and stable tech employment.

Earlier this week, the GEM-Tech awards were presented alongside WSIS+10 discussions and events focused on eliminating the digital gender divide. 2015 Awardees include CCDKM in Thailand, Technovation based in the US, and the Senegal Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. These organizations are changing the way women engage with the Internet and ICTs, empowering them with the tools to participate in, build, and power the digital economy.

Conversations at the GEM-Tech and WSIS+10 events in New York emphasized the need for action now, and the need to address the digital gender divide from many angles. It is clear that involving development agencies, NGOs and private sector companies is necessary to disrupt the gender divide. Attendees, including Mitchell Baker, Executive Chairwoman at Mozilla, and Minerva Tantoco, CTO of New York City, emphasized a huge need for training women in technology skills and coding all around the world. They also spoke about a need for an attitudinal shift that reverses the narrative about tech being a male-dominated world, and even delved into the need for tech skill training to extend into rural communities globally.

At iMerit, we were excited to see this global resonance and focus on incorporating women in digital jobs, decision making, and leadership. We seconded the need to include the private sector, and harness the huge potential for socioeconomic growth they present to marginalized communities globally. The conversations we had at the GEM-Tech Awards and WSIS+10 side events confirmed the need for the work we’re doing and continued to inspire us.

Only by dismantling the digital divide can we unleash the power of ICTs and the Internet to promote positive global change.

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Busan, South Korea, 28 October 2014 – The United Nations International Telecommunication Union and UN Women today presented the Gender Equality Mainstreaming – Technology (GEM-TECH) Award to iMerit Technology Services at its 19th Plenipotentiary Conference. The award was conferred by the ITU Secretary General-Elect, Houlin Zhao, before 2500 attendees assembled at its quadrennial conference in Busan, South Korea. Co-organized with UN Women, the GEM-TECH Awards recognize outstanding achievements of organizations and individuals […]

Busan, South Korea, 28 October 2014 – The United Nations International Telecommunication Union and UN Women today presented the Gender Equality Mainstreaming – Technology (GEM-TECH) Award to iMerit Technology Services at its 19th Plenipotentiary Conference.

The award was conferred by the ITU Secretary General-Elect, Houlin Zhao, before 2500 attendees assembled at its quadrennial conference in Busan, South Korea. Co-organized with UN Women, the GEM-TECH Awards recognize outstanding achievements of organizations and individuals in the area of gender equality and mainstreaming through information and communication technology (ICT). The awards were open to leading women and men, as well as organizations working in the field of ICT and gender.

iMerit received its award for the category, “ICT Applications, Content, Production Capacities and Skills for Women’s Economic Empowerment and Poverty Reduction.” The winners for the seven ICT categories were selected from over 360 nominations and 37 finalists from all over the world. This inaugural edition of the GEM-Tech Awards was sponsored by ITU Gold Partners, the Sultanate of Oman, the Republic of Rwanda, the Swiss Confederation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and ITU Silver Partners, Cisco Systems and Facebook.

Congratulating the winners, ITU Secretary General, Dr. Hamadoun I. Touré, praised the exceptionally high quality of nominations and stressed that much still needs to be done to leverage the full power of ICTs to improve the lives of women and men.

“This is an important moment in the history of the ITU,” said Dr. Touré. “At a time when there are 200 million less women than men online, these awards for the first time recognize excellent role models in gender equalization mainstreaming from across the globe.”

Accepting the award, iMerit CEO, Radha Basu said she was deeply honored to accept the award on behalf of the 30,000 marginalized young students of iMerit/Anudip, who have been mainstreamed into internet and IT jobs.

“The women at iMerit believe strongly in market-based solutions,” said Ms. Basu. “They wish not to be beneficiaries of the UN and large corporations. They want them to be our clients. Our dream is to become a mini-Facebook or a mini-Alibaba, with women as equal shareholders in the global internet economy. That is mainstreaming.”

For the official ITU press release, click here

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About iMerit Technology Services

iMerit is an innovative, award-winning IT services firm with a vision to shape the future of the web services industry. Using a tested integrated business model, iMerit follows a four-step process of empowering the impoverished youth through mobilization, training, employment, and up-skilling in IT project services. To date, iMerit and its sister company Anudip Foundation have created sustainable livelihoods in the IT market for over 30,000 rural youth and women, while providing high quality, highly scalable IT service solutions to a global client base. iMerit’s leadership team brings a combined 100 years of experience in leading large teams of IT professionals working at premier multinational companies. Clients include universities, corporations, governments, startups and non-profits worldwide. To learn more, visit www.imerit.net.

About ITU

ITU is the leading United Nations agency for information and communication technology. For nearly 150 years, ITU has coordinated the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promoted international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, worked to improve communication infrastructure in the developing world, and established the worldwide standards that foster seamless interconnection of a vast range of communications systems. From broadband networks to new-generation wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, radio astronomy, satellite-based meteorology and converging fixed-mobile phone, Internet and broadcasting technologies, ITU is committed to connecting the world. www.itu.int.

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