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 Tenggara
Partner organization: SOS Children Villages Indonesia

* Thailand: Bangkok, Chiang Mai
Partner organizations: The Research Center of Communication and Development Knowledge Management (CCDKM) and Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University

* The Philippines: Metro Manila
Partner organization: Go Negosyo

* Vietnam: Hanoi
Partner 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.