Through diverse programmes and partnerships with youth-serving nonprofits, Microsoft YouthSpark is aimed at creating new opportunities for millions of young people around the world. Back in May 2013, four projects won funding in a South Asia Regional Grant competition, ‘Youth Solutions! Technology for Skills and Employment’, to implement ICT projects that can reduce youth unemployment. We catch up with the Nepal category winner to find out about their progress on the project.

At 23 years old, Tanita K.C. does not look any different from the young people she is working with and training.

Tanita is the new deputy team leader for the winning ‘Sajilo Sip’ project created by YUWA, a youth-led organisation that has been vigorously pushing for youth rights in issues ranging from HIV/AIDS to sustainable development since its establishment in 2009.

With a 46 percent national unemployment rate and an extreme shortage of attractive job opportunities, Nepal is facing massive out-migration, especially to the Middle East.

Tanita pointed out that with over 40,000 people leaving the country every month, Nepal is being depleted of one of its most important assets — its youth and young adults. She said, “Nepal’s economic growth, social stability and near-term development strategy has to depend increasingly upon creating alternative sources of employment for young people.”

It was against this backdrop that the ‘Sajilo Sip’ project was designed. The project aims to enhance the economic security of youth by providing training in practical skills needed for agricultural micro-enterprises as well as jobs that require basic computing knowledge. The project also includes a mechanism for productive engagement with urban youth.

The project’s main output is a course that teaches mushroom cultivation skills and how to use Microsoft Office. The top five scorers in a test administered at the end of the course will be awarded seed money for micro-enterprises. Urban youth will be recruited as volunteers to help localise content for various Nepali youth segments.

Tanita said, “Dr Jaykant Raut, Senior Scientist of Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), and the author of several books on mushroom farming, has agreed to design the course. As for the curriculum on Microsoft Office, we will work with the Microsoft Innovation Centre, Nepal.”

She also confirmed that feasibility studies have shown that Moodle, a tool for creating online dynamic web sites for students, will be the learning management system (LMS) to deliver the e-learning course. A mockup version has been tested, and is currently undergoing fine-tuning.

The project is well on its way to implementation, but Tanita still requires help drumming up publicity.

In addition to the 100 youth selected from each of the seven districts where training will be conducted, the course materials will be taught on-line too. With the content of the course aired through FM radios and broadcast through the courseware, they plan to reach an audience of 70,000.

Unemployed youth from marginalised communities who are actively seeking jobs will be given top priority to attend the course in person at learning centres. The ability to share content with a large audience, having high visibility for the programme, and for the content to be hosted online for a period longer than a single course were essential and important factors behind the project design.

“Our plans are in place, we just need to get the word out now,” she said.