According to the World Bank, South Asia created nearly 800,000 jobs per month between 2000 and 2010. However, despite growth, the region is still home to half a billion of the world’s poorest people. Since labor is the primary asset of the poor, having more and better jobs is the key employment challenge facing the region.

Through a collaborative grant programme, jointly organized by the World Bank, Microsoft Sri Lanka and Sarvodaya-Fusion, four innovative solutions, designed by youth-led NGOs from Bangladesh, Nepal, the Maldives and Sri Lanka, were selected winners at a regional grant competition. Called ‘Youth Solutions!’, the programme encouraged young people to help solve employment challenges through the use of information technology (IT).

From the original 80 project proposals submitted, Shilpa Sayura Foundation from Sri Lanka, YPSA from Bangladesh, YUWA from Nepal and Live & Learn Environmental Education from the Maldives were the winners of the competition. The criteria used to determine the winners included how the proposals used innovative and creative methods to promote IT skills amongst youth, helping them secure gainful employment; the capacity to demonstrate solutions to challenges faced by youth; and how the proposal encouraged innovation, learning and sharing.

Each winning project received a grant between $15,000 and $20,000 to carry out a youth-led project for one year, with the possibility of being scaled up via other public or private sector initiatives.

The high profile panel of judges comprised of Gabriela Aguilar, Senior Communications Officer for World Bank, South Asia; Sriyan de Silva Wijeyeratne, Country Manager, Microsoft Sri Lanka; Anurag Kak, Managing Director, Lafarge Mahaweli Cement (Pvt) Ltd.; Ms Moji Akingbade, General Manager of Avery Dennison Lanka (Pvt) Ltd; and Gaurav Mishra, Asia Vice President of Insights, Innovation & Social, MSLGROUP.

Gabriela Aguilar said, “This grant programme conducted by the World Bank and Microsoft is an exciting opportunity to find and fund new solutions to youth unemployment in this region. South Asia is home to a large youth population, with over 1 million entering the labor force every month.”

We are proud to present a summary of the winning teams and their proposals:

Sri Lanka’s Shilpa Sayura Foundation, an organization aimed at empowering youth through ICT skills, will help youth produce 10 high impact films on current social issues. The project, titled “Digital Rainbow”, will train at least 100 youth to become film makers, a still developing industry in the country.

Young Power in Social Action (YPSA), an organization dedicated to supporting and empowering socially marginalized groups in Bangladesh, aims to support the smooth transition to work of people with disabilities through the use of ICT training, ICT internships, relevant job search support and producing Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) products.

Live & Learn Environmental Education, an organization from the Maldives, aims to reduce poverty by working towards sustainable development with strong partnerships. Their project includes improving production and marketing of craft through an online portal. Youth will be engaged in training that would equip them with the ICT skills to make profitable employment through linking the segregated handicraft industry with the market.

YUWA, a Nepali youth led organization, plan to use comprehensive e-learning methodology to equip youth with relevant ICT skills to improve employability. It will use blended technology organized in a comprehensive Learning Management System including new media, such as YouTube and podcasts to educate youth.

Janakie Karunarathne, Manager, Community Affairs, Microsoft Sri Lanka, said, “Microsoft is proud to have collaborated with the World Bank in this effort to capture the youthful enthusiasm and innovative aspirations of four countries. The youth NGOs chosen today from each country would work towards alleviating the challenges, such as lack of skills and unemployment in their individual countries through the use of ICT.”