DZCareer is a three-year project funded by the U.S. Department of State to address youth unemployment in Algeria. World Learning began the project in 2015, developing training curriculums for career counselors and youth, which are now implemented through a network of career centers. World Learning also contracted Souktel to develop a free digital job matching platform to complement and network the career centers by automatically and remotely connecting trainees to employers and job listings. Based on market research, Souktel integrated the platform with SMS and WhatsApp to send listings to youth on their mobile phones.
DZCareer’s State Department funders conceived the digital platform to overcome distance and access issues for youth. To design for the specific context, World Learning and Souktel conducted surveys and focus groups with youth in the areas where the career centers were being built. In addition to validating the free job matching platform concept, the research showed that Viber was the most popular tool among youth for information exchange, WhatsApp and SMS penetration were high, and these tools would be desirable for job matching. Facebook penetration was also high, but youth indicated that Facebook Messenger would be less preferable for job matching. Souktel therefore sought to integrate with SMS and Viber, but after considerable negotiations with Viber was unable to agree on integration pricing. The project team instead created a technical integration with WhatsApp, carried out through another application that relays content to and from the platform. Souktel’s multichannel approach—combining messenger, SMS and web—is designed to test uptake and retention across each and adjust the service accordingly over time.
When initially registering on the web platform, job seekers select their region, create a professional profile, and select to receive alerts either via SMS notifications or as a subscriber to a relevant WhatsApp broadcast list. Platform algorithms then group users by location, skills and experience. For those who select WhatsApp, their phone number is relayed to the central DZCareer admin interface, where site admins add them to the broadcast list relevant to their grouping on the platform. The platform then automates the alert process, matching and sending job listings to relevant WhatsApp lists and groupings of SMS users. SMS users receive listings via direct one-way SMS, while WhatsApp users receive them as posts to their list. DZCareer’s SMS integration is one-way because there is no toll-free or zero-rated option for job seekers to respond to. Souktel found that most youth have access to wifi, enabling them to use WhatsApp for free. Building on this high level of WhatsApp connectivity, Souktel has also developed two-way features for WhatsApp, such as polls, and now supports open-ended inquiries from job seekers that are relayed to the central DZCareer interface for admins to reply.
The DZCareer project was rolled out in September, 2017, and DZCareer has since provided training and career support for more than 2,000 youth. The platform was released in November, and is now being promoted on career center Facebook pages while the project team provides free trainings for youth and employers. The team plans to monitor the WhatsApp integration for a six-month period and evaluate its use. If successful, the team may consider enabling DZCareer to directly connect job seekers with human employers on WhatsApp.