How Digital Transformation Centres are improving thousands of lives in the Dominican Republic

Is it possible to go from having never touched a computer to successfully running a digital business within a year?

The answer is yes according to the ambitious programme of the ITU Digital Transformation Centre (DTC) in the Dominican Republic. The ITU Initiative has seen major success in recent months – despite the complications brought by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Over 5000 people in the Dominican Republic have been trained through the DTC Initiative since its launch in February 2020.

Participants come from different areas across the country – most from underserved and vulnerable communities.

Thanks to this programme, which is also fully supported by the President of the Dominican Republic, people are learning digital skills and for some, engaging with technology for the first time.

These steps on a path out of poverty are also bringing beneficiaries new opportunities to connect with markets, both local and digital. The DTC Initiative targets vulnerable populations, aiming to reach those traditionally excluded from digital economies.

What is a Digital Transformation Centre?

The Digital Transformation Centres Initiative was launched in September 2019 by ITU and Cisco with the objective of supporting countries develop digital skills at basic and intermediate levels, particularly in underserved communities. The capacity to deliver digital skills training to citizens at scale forms the core of the Initiative.

The selected DTCs are public institutions or government bodies in charge of digital access and skills training.

The objective shared by ITU and Cisco is to boost the DTCs’ capacity to deliver training by supporting them with high-quality training content, online training infrastructure and financial resources.

The Dominican Republic is home to one of nine DTCs in the world, and one of two in the Americas. Four more are in Africa (Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Rwanda, Zambia) and three are in the Asia-Pacific (Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea).

Partnerships are a key element of the DTC Initiative. Partners like Cisco and HP bring technical content and expertise while ITU supports the Initiative through funding, coordination, resource mobilization and onboarding additional partners. Normally linked to government, local partners are tasked with leveraging resources on the ground by finding participants, providing training facilities and bringing local trainers on board.

The Dominican Republic DTC is represented by the Community Technological Center (CTC), a local institution leveraging its network of 104 community centres where digital skills trainings are offered at the basic and intermediate levels.

What are participants learning?

The courses offered by the DTC target a range of skill levels, designed for people who have never touched a computer before as well as those with basic digital literacy.

Participants in the intermediate level training courses are often looking to enhance their entrepreneurial skills through information and communication technologies (ICTs). Their businesses typically form part of the informal economy in the Dominican Republic, with activities such as producing handicrafts or hairdressing.

In addition to reaching underserved communities in the country, the programme also aims to achieve a participation rate of at least 50 per cent women.

This goal is complemented by specific programmes dedicated to women entrepreneurs.

Participants in the programme have confirmed the value brought by their newly enhanced digital and entrepreneurial skills.

According to beneficiary Angela Terrero, “We can implement what we learn in them at work or personally; these are practical courses with a lot of value.”

Another participant, Yamilka Maria Reynoso Valdez, learned how to manage finances, reach new customers, and how to sell in a business context. “These are the resources that are needed to start a business and to know how to manage it,” she added.

A lack of digital skills can prevent teachers and students from introducing distance learning – especially crucial during the pandemic, noted ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau Director Doreen Bogdan-Martin. “This is also a challenge for the business community. Most jobs require some level of digital skills, which will become more important as the world transitions to a post-digital age,” she highlighted.

Ambitions to scale worldwide

Despite the setbacks caused by COVID-19, learning is continuing with most of the training having shifted online. Little by little, physical training facilities are starting to open again with appropriate safety precautions in place.

The Dominican Republic DTC is part of the Phase 1 pilot to see what works and what doesn’t. By the end of 2021, the DTC Initiative aims to enter Phase 2, which includes plans to scale up and expand the Initiative by opening more Digital Transformation Centres throughout the world, thereby reaching a maximum number of participants.

This can be done through more partnerships, also planned to increase with the support of ITU. Digital Transformation Centre CTC looks forward to sharing experiences and learning how other DTC network partners are implementing programs in their countries.

“We learn more when we share more,” affirmed Jonny Beltran, CTC Deputy Director and leader of the DTC Initiative in the Dominican Republic.

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