Innovation Projects

The third revolution: no Ethiopian kid should be left behind

Agricultural and industrial revolutions were instrumental in improving living standards and proving the predictions of Adam Smith wrong. Thanks to these two revolutions, the world narrowly avoided catastrophic and massive starvation, war and pestilence due to unprecedented productivity and wealth.

On the other hand, agricultural and industrial revolutions came to pass without having measurable positive impact on developing countries. Both rich and poor nations are lamenting the lost opportunities because abject poverty is now translated to illegal immigration, cultural, political, and resource partition conflicts and global instability. Now we are in the heart of a third revolution, The Digital/Tech revolution. Unfortunately, a similar pattern appears to be unfolding where developing countries are again lagging far behind (Fig 1).


There is, however, a sign of hope in developing countries such as Ethiopia. The youth in cities like Addis Ababa, Bahir Dar, and Jimma are embracing the digital age and exploiting the opportunity to create their own future. OHBD is collaborating with United States Embassy in Addis and Jimma University to provide software engineering training at Jimma American Corner. Experts of Ethiopian origin as well as volunteer Americans working at Microsoft, Amazon, and Google are involved in the training using digital platforms.

A recent visit to Jimma by our Innovation Center lead has shown high school students excelling in their technical classes and building their passion for technology. The course delivered live from Seattle has given them hope that digital technology will one day change their lives for the better. They spend their time collaborating in software development projects and building their coding skills at an incredible rate. Students stayed hooked to their laptops and experimental tables after the normal training sessions are over. They start peer-to-peer discussions and help each other gain the required skill set in coding software applications.


Digital literacy plays a pivotal role in driving innovation. Instant access to information is needed to produce new knowledge and implement it in solving real problems at local, national, and global levels. Human civilization flourished in response to agricultural and industrial revolutions. A similar effect is likely to take place during the digital or tech revolution. Therefore, we should embrace the opportunity and make sure that developing countries also become part of the third revolution

There are many challenges that sabotage the success of digital literacy in an Ethiopian setting where intermittent internet access is top of the list. Against this backdrop, OHBD is on a mission to tackle the digital divide that holds back Ethiopian students from acquiring the skill sets they need to become a qualified part of the workforce. OHBD will continue to collaborate with universities, regional authorities, and nonprofit organizations to reach out to as many high school kids as possible to expand digital literacy in Ethiopia.