Part 2: Bridging the digital and economic divide with SkillsPassport

For the large portion of the South African population who are digitally invisible, the journey to digital visibility is not without its challenges.

By Paul Hodgson

In the process of helping the ‘digitally invisible’ to become ‘digitally visible’, dealing with illiterate persons and ensuring that the information captured has integrity and is accurate, are just some of the challenges to overcome.

SkillsPassport (Pty) Ltd, an innovative tech company, has, over the past six years, spent time on the business side of the digital divide in boardrooms of large corporates and SMEs and in the homes of individual employers to understand their needs and frustrations in the lower Living Standard Measure (LSM) employment space. Coupled with this, vast amounts of time have been spent under trees, on the side of the road and in the homes of digitally invisible people on the other side of the digital divide to understand their frustrations and barriers to entering the employment market.

Using information gleaned from both sides of the digital divide and after numerous design and development iterations, SkillsPassport (Pty) Ltd has evolved a business model that effectively makes digitally invisible people visible to the mainstream economy and the mainstream economy accessible to the now digitally visible, thereby bridging the digital and economic divide.

The business model is enabled by the SkillsPassport platform, a state-of-the-art web-enabled and mobile application that facilitates the capturing of a digitally invisible person’s demographic information, qualifications and various types of licences, to name a few. A network of handpicked and trained SkillsPassport agents are deployed into marginalised communities or where needed to sign up the digitally invisible. Agents are equipped with smartphones or tablets installed with the SkillsPassport app that facilitates and guides the sign-up process. Agents are incentivised to sign up people as accurately and efficiently as possible. The agents’ approach also allows the business model to cater for the illiterate. Captured information is converted by the platform into a digital profile called a SkillsPassport™.

Each signed up member is issued with the SkillsPassport debit card that carries the member’s unique QR code which can be presented to a potential employer. Scanning the QR code will allow the potential employer to view the member’s profile.

Benefits for SkillsPassport members:
  • Free membership
  • Visibility to employers looking for their specific skills
  • Visibility to companies wishing to comply with Training Unemployed (18.2’s) as part of their B-BBEE/BEE strategy
  • Eliminating the need for members to commute from door to door canvassing and soliciting for jobs
  • Mobile-enabled payment methods eliminate the risk associated with paying cash wages
    The ability for members to create, grow and expand a digital profile that assists with job hunting
  • The ability for members to digitally send documents (ID, etc.) to third parties
  • Providing, where applicable, access to members’ dependents’ academic performance
  • Providing access to a myriad discounted value-added services and products, including banking, remittances, insurance, prepaid airtime and electricity
Employers, whether corporate, small to medium enterprises or individuals, can sign up on the SkillsPassport platform for free with payment only being required once value can be demonstrated and, even then, the philosophy of ‘high volume low value’ transactions is embraced.

Benefits for employers:

Gain easy access to a repository of semi- and/or low-skilled candidates, with a comprehensive profile that includes reviews by previous employers
  • Easily perform verifications such as qualifications, ID, ITC, criminal record, etc.
  • Pay staff wages to a mobile wallet or other form of banking instrument
  • Rate staff members’ performance
  • Avoid re-employing underperforming staff
  • Monitor and easily manage the compulsory and discretionary spend on Skills Development
  • Save significantly on HR costs by simply necessitating that all existing and new/prospective employees have a SkillsPassport profile
  • Minimise the risk associated with employing ‘unknown’ people
The SkillsPassport business model also drives financial inclusion by encouraging employers who currently pay wages in cash to rather deposit monies into an e-wallet or bank account provided to SkillsPassport members. Once members are banked, they can use the SkillsPassport platform to transact electronically by purchasing airtime and electricity or paying school fees or utility bills, for example. SkillsPassport (Pty) Ltd will continue to partner with innovative banking service providers to develop and make available financial products aimed at the lower LSM.

Also read part 3 in this series of articles: Enabling financial inclusion with SkillsPassport