Microsoft YouthSpark is a new companywide initiative to create opportunities for 300 million youth through a range of global programs, delivered in partnership with governments, nonprofits and other businesses.
Microsoft today announced a new global initiative, Microsoft YouthSpark, that aims to create opportunities for 300 million youth in more than 100 countries during the next three years. This companywide initiative includes citizenship and other company programs — both new and enhanced — that empower youth to imagine and realizetheir full potential by connecting them with greater opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship.
Through Microsoft YouthSpark, the company will dedicate the majority of its cash contributions to nonprofits that serve the youth population around the world. In addition, Microsoft YouthSpark will include Office 365 for education, free technology tools for all teachers and students to power learning and collaboration, and Skype in the classroom, a free global community for teachers to connect their students with others around the world.
As part of the initiative, Microsoft is also launching a range of new citizenship programs:
Launching the new initiative, Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer said, “Through Microsoft YouthSpark we are making a commitment to help 300 million young people around the world achieve their dreams by focusing our citizenship efforts and other company resources on connecting young people with opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship. We believe that working with our partners we can help empower young people to change their world, and we are committed to using our technology, talent, time and resources to do that.”
The company’s youth-focused philanthropy will be conducted in close collaboration with nonprofits around the world. These include worldwide organizations such as GlobalGiving Foundation, TakingITGlobal, Telecentre.org Foundation and the International Youth Foundation, as well as regional nonprofits such as Silatech in the Middle East, The Trust for Americas in Latin America, AIESEC International in Europe, and the ASEAN Foundation in Asia. In the United States, Microsoft is announcing its support of five national nonprofits: Boys & Girls Clubs of America, City Year, Junior Achievement USA, Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship and Year Up Inc.
“Our next generation of citizenship will focus on the next generation of people,” said Brad Smith, executive vice president, Microsoft. “The global unemployment rate for workers younger than 25 is 12.7 percent, which is double the rate for the world as a whole. This is indicative of a growing opportunity divide between young people who have the access, skills and opportunities to be successful and those who do not. We must work together to close the opportunity divide for youth and help secure the future of this generation and the future of our global economy.”
The International Youth Foundation Opportunity for Action report, published in March 2012, showed that nearly 75 million young people worldwide were unemployed in 2011. As the global youth population continues to grow — there are more than 2.2 billion people between the ages of 6 and 24 today — the opportunity divide is widening.
Microsoft YouthSpark goes beyond philanthropy and brings together a range of global programs that empower young people with access to technology and a better education and inspire young people to imagine the opportunities they have to realize their potential, including previously mentioned Office 365 for education and Skype in the classroom, as well as the following:
A full list of Microsoft YouthSpark programs can be found at the YouthSpark Hub.
The ASEAN Foundation recently announced that it will implement a new ICT training program for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) funded by a US$300,000 grant from Microsoft. The programme will target young entrepreneurs aged 16-25, and focus on the latest ICT applications for SME development. Over the next 24 months, the pilot project is expected to reach more than 20,000 people—youth, students and women—and close to 1,000 SMEs from Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Dr Makarim Wibisono, ASEAN Foundation Executive Director, remarked, “Our vision for this ICT programme is that it will not only help increase growth and competitiveness among micro-entrepreneurs in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, but that its success will also lead to the future implementation of similar projects in other ASEAN countries. Through our long-standing collaboration with Microsoft, the ASEAN Foundation stands ready to help people across the region realize greater opportunity through improved access to information technology.”
Tracey Fellows, President of Microsoft Asia Pacific, added, “I am delighted to launch this grant, a first for Microsoft in the region in its scope and breadth, and the next exciting step in our long-term partnership with the ASEAN Foundation. SMEs are the lifeblood of most countries in this region. Through this partnership we want to enable the next generation of young people to start their own business or create their own opportunities. This grant reflects our belief in the power of technology to help transform lives, and the social and economic development of every nation.”
The launch of the program is a key milestone in tackling rising jobless rates among young people. According to a paper released in early September by the International Labor Organization titled “Global Employment Outlook: Bleak Labour Market Prospects for Youth”, youth unemployment rates in Southeast Asia & the Pacific are forecasted to rise from 13.1 percent in 2012 to 14.2 percent in 2017.
The new programme will see close collaboration between non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academia and organizations from the public and private sectors, working together to help young entrepreneurs realize their full potential through activities such as:
* Development and delivery of ICT curriculum tailored for the needs of micro-entrepreneurs, helping them understand how they can use technology most effectively to sustain and grow their businesses; * A ‘Train the Trainer’ series to help communities extend the reach of this curriculum across the region; and * The selection of one entrepreneur for an E-Business Incubation program, which will provide mentorship and assistance as they implement ICT marketing tools into their business operations.
The programme will be implemented in the following eight locations:
* Indonesia: West Sumatera, West Java (Bandung Area), South Sulawesi, West Nusa TenggaraPartner organization: SOS Children Villages Indonesia* Thailand: Bangkok, Chiang MaiPartner organizations: The Research Center of Communication and Development Knowledge Management (CCDKM) and Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University* The Philippines: Metro ManilaPartner organization: Go Negosyo* Vietnam: HanoiPartner organization: Vietnam Chambers of Commerce and Industry (VCCI)
The project announced today expands upon the ASEAN Foundation’s partnership with Microsoft, which began in 2005 and has resulted in the development of ICT curriculum for farmers in rural areas, and delivery of ICT training to more than 50,000 people in Indonesia.
Microsoft Thailand and the Population and Community Development Association (PDA), a well-known NGO in Thailand, has kicked off the ’Chumchon Dot Net’ project to establish 20 Community Technology Skills Centers for villagers in Thailand’s Northeast region.
Started in March, the project aims to provide information technology (IT) access and training to villagers—allowing them to learn new IT skills and boost their income opportunities. Approximately eight million people in Thailand live on less than two dollars a day. They reside mainly in the Northeastern part of Thailand, also known as the Isan Region. Over 80 percent of these people are rice farmers who depend on good weather for a fair harvest, resulting in erratic income.
The poverty situation is worsened by the increasing migration of people from these regions to urban centers, especially Bangkok. This has resulted in less able-bodied men and women available to tend the crops, thereby perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
The project will train more than 1700 farmers and youths. A web portal was designed to link at least 10 websites created and maintained by the villages to provide information that will facilitate the buying and selling of goods in the surrounding communities. Microsoft and PDA aim to increase the villagers’ income by at least 20 percent after the first 12 months.
An organic farmer, Mr Wanchai Soiprapai, is one of the participants of the Chumchon Dot Net project in his village. He had moved from Bangkok to the Nongkratum village in Buriram to become a farmer after suffering health problems while working in the city. "I have been interested in computers and IT for more than 20 years and IT is a tool to for me to succeed in organic farming. I need to have access to information such as effective fertilizer-soil formula, right plant species and updated information from agriculture agencies,” he said.
Through this project, Microsoft strives to boost the IT capabilities of the people in the region, facilitate e-commerce and expand market opportunities to help alleviate some of the economic hardships endured by the villagers.
Microsoft announced that it has redesigned the upcoming Imagine Cup 2013 around three new core competitions — World Citizenship, Games and Innovation — and significantly increased the prize money to encourage more young developers and aspiring entrepreneurs to participate in the annual event.
In its 11th year, the Worldwide Finals of Imagine Cup 2013 will be held in St. Petersburg, Russia, from 8 to 11 July 2013. The competition will build on the core elements that have contributed to the Imagine Cup’s popularity with students in the past 10 years — social impact and gaming — while expanding the competition’s focus on innovation and entrepreneurship.
Under the new competition structure of Imagine Cup 2013, students can take part in the following categories:
In addition to these competitions, students can register to compete in Online Challenges focused on specific technologies and platforms, including Windows 8, Windows Azure and Windows Phone.
Microsoft has also more than doubled the Imagine Cup prize money to US$300,000, with the aim of influencing more students who may be considering careers as innovators. Worldwide Finalists will have the chance to apply for the Microsoft Cup Grants, a three-year scheme with a US$3 million investment by Microsoft.
“With the evolution of Imagine Cup, we are further inspiring students from all academic backgrounds to collaborate and enhance their applications. Ultimately, we hope that by giving these students the support they need to bring their technology to the market, they will be able to fully realise their potential to impact their local communities and the world,” said John Scott Tynes, Microsoft Imagine Cup Competition Strategy and Development Manager.
As the world’s premier student technology competition, Imagine Cup provides students with the opportunity to tackle global issues through technology and helps to turn their innovative ideas into reality. More than 1.65 million students from 190 countries have participated in Imagine Cup during the past decade, creating applications and games that address the world’s toughest social problems.
“Without Imagine Cup, we would never have the chance to learn what it takes to turn our idea into a profitable business,” said Sally Buberman, an Imagine Cup 2007 participant who will be a judge at the Imagine Cup 2013.
Tech One Global is becoming the first Sri Lankan company to set up operation in the Hambantota Park, the first park in Sri Lanka dedicated to information technology (IT) and business process outsourcing (BPO). The park was built to provide new jobs in rural Sri Lanka and aims to offer 100,000 positions, including 40,000 positions in the IT/BPO industry for youths from the entire Southern region by 2016. This will contribute to meeting the nation’s goal of having 10 percent of the country’s labor force working in IT related jobs by 2020.
Hon. Namal Rajapakse, MP from the Hambantota District, recently announced the formation of several public-private partnerships with leading industry players, such as Tech One Global, during the construction of the Hambantota Park. Other partners include the Vocational Training Authority (VTA), who will be in charge of training with the Microsoft BPO curriculum, a program specifically designed for the BPO industry; Microsoft Sri Lanka, who will provide the necessary IT resources to train youths; and IDM Education Services, who will be joining in as a training partner with Sri Lanka Association of Software and Service Companies (SLASSCOM).
With the investment from Tech One Global, 50 seats are going to be created for interested BPO operators in February. To encourage the commencement of businesses in the Hambontota Park, necessary infrastructure and facilities will be made available at a very low cost to attract local and foreign BPO operators.
Mr Wasantha Weerakoon, CEO of Tech One Global, said that they are honored to be the first local company to contribute to the country’s economy and improving the employment rate. Plans to train the local labour force are currently happening.
“This will position our country as a skilled population trained in IT, which will allow our economy and development to grow immensely. Our training programs are on par with international standards and requirements, and we are confident that they will equip our BPO industry with a competitive edge,” said Mr Weerakoon.
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