“Nyinyi vijana kazi yenu ni mbili: Kuappear huko kufundishwa, na kufinya kompyuta na uweke pesa ya dollar kwa mfuko yako. Wewe utashindwa kufinya kompyuta ndio upate pesa?” President Ruto’s words, not mine! Good news Kenyans, We are going digital! The ICT CS Eliud Owalo recently announced the establishment of 1,450 ICT hubs in every ward nationwide. Nonetheless, much as I would like to, this article is not intended to pay tribute to the recent initiative aimed at enabling youths to engage in online jobs and earn “dollars”. As a gambling harm advocate, I feel compelled to express my concerns. While the intention behind this move may seem commendable at first glance, I believe it is crucial to critically examine the potential repercussions, particularly in the context of predatory online gambling companies and gambling addiction among the youth population.

First and foremost, the notion that youths can simply “click computers and earn dollars” oversimplifies the complexities of online work and fails to acknowledge the risks associated with it. By painting online work as an effortless path to financial gain, there is a real danger of luring young individuals into a false sense of security and unrealistic expectations. For some of us who have already ventured into the trade, It turned out to be a treacherous path that is unforgiving. We used VPNs to hide our Kenya location as most notable freelance platforms rarely welcome Africans to their platforms. Furthermore, It creates an environment where vulnerable youths may be more susceptible to the allure of quick and easy money-making schemes, including online gambling.

As a gambling harm advocate, I am deeply concerned that promoting online work without addressing the potential risks sends a contradictory message to the youth. Instead of empowering them with valuable skills and opportunities for sustainable livelihoods, there is a risk of steering them towards activities that can have devastating consequences on their mental health, finances, and overall well-being.

Moreover, the lack of safeguards and support mechanisms in place to address the ever-rising online gambling and gambling addiction among the youth further compounds the issue. Without proper awareness campaigns, counselling services, and regulatory measures to mitigate the risks of online gambling, we run the risk of exacerbating an already concerning trend of gambling addiction among young people in Kenya.

In conclusion, while the government’s efforts to promote digital inclusivity are laudable, it is imperative to adopt a more holistic approach that considers the potential pitfalls and safeguards against them. As a society, we must prioritize the well-being of our youth by providing them with opportunities for meaningful and sustainable livelihoods while also safeguarding them against the dangers of addiction and exploitation. Only through comprehensive and responsible initiatives can we truly empower our youth to thrive in the digital age.

By Nelson Bwire.

Project Lead

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