For 25-year-old Malaysian Michael Teoh, a highlight of his relatively young career was being selected as one of the two winners and global ambassadors in the ‘Your Big Year’ (YBY) 2011 competition hosted by the Smaller Earth Group. Applicants compete in a series of challenges that involve themes of social entrepreneurship and global citizenship that positively impact the world.

The YBY ambassadorship paved the way for Michael to lead a global expedition to 22 countries in 2012, providing him with the opportunity to interact with governments, businesses and nonprofit groups as well as learn how to develop and lead social initiatives to empower youth.

“Technology opens up a whole new world of knowledge and connectivity among youth today, keeping them updated with recent trends and changes in their society. The YBY ambassadorship provided me with the opportunity to learn how to use platforms such as social media and online learning tools to empower youth globally,” Michael
said.

One of Michael’s earliest experiences in the development of technology solutions was through his participation in the Microsoft Imagine Cup. In 2008, the former Auckland University of Technology student competed at the Imagine Cup competition and worked with teammates from diverse backgrounds for a common goal — the use of technology to address global problems.  

Michael explained, “Microsoft provided access to the Student Developer Network, giving us the online tools to create smart technology applications to aid youth. The support from Microsoft made a big difference, and opened up our perspectives on how technology can be used to transform lives. Today, through my own initiatives, I am involved in coaching youth and young executives to create positive change within their own organisations and communities.”

Michael relishes the opportunities that have opened up for him as a youth advocate with an active role in a number of social enterprises. For instance, he is serving as the Managing Editor of Entrepreneurs.my, an online portal he co-founded, and various speaking engagements aimed at inspiring youth around the world to harness their innovative ideas for a meaningful cause.

He also sees a great potential in the use of technology to help improve the lives of millions of underprivileged children, especially those in rural areas, to bridge the technology divide.

“Computer literacy in many rural areas around the world is still lacking, often preventing young people from getting improved job opportunities. More can be done in terms of building awareness as well as providing better access to technology and developing a grassroots-driven approach to address this problem, whereby teams of technology experts can be stationed to mentor and cultivate the usage of the latest technology and computing devices in these rural communities,” Michael added.

About YouthSpark

YouthSpark is a Microsoft companywide initiative designed to create opportunities for 300 million youth in more than 100 countries during the next three years. Through partnerships with governments, nonprofits and businesses, Microsoft aims to empower youth to imagine and realise their full potential by connecting them with greater education, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities. We want to empower youth to change their world.

See a full list of Microsoft YouthSpark programmes here.