Posted by Sylvie Laffarge 
Director Community Affairs, Europe

If anyone was wondering how badly the global recession is affecting Europe, recent jobs data provide a chilling answer. 

More than 20 million Europeans were out of work in March, up 25 percent from the same period a year ago, and the tally could exceed 22 million by the end of the year.  In Spain, a stunning 17.4 percent of workers were unemployed in March.

As in other parts of the world, European governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are now anxiously looking for ways to provide jobs and make European workers more employable. As we’ve demonstrated with our support for thousands of community technology skills training programs around the world, Microsoft believes providing people with greater digital skills is an important part of the solution. 

That is why I want to applaud the call to action issued last month by Telecentre-Europe Network - a unique and inspiring grassroots movement that brings together community telecentre organisations across the continent to share knowledge and best practices about their vital and, in my view, heroic work.

Americans may imagine rooms of telemarketers when they hear the term “telecentre,” but in Europe a telecentre is a public facility such as a library or community center where people can get help accessing computers, the Internet and other digital technologies. Telecentres help people develop essential digital skills to enable them to find better employment opportunities, to participate meaningfully in society or to improve and transform their lives.

The Telecentre-Europe Manifesto on E-Skills Training in Europe,  launched in collaboration with other NGOs around Europe, calls on all EU governments to include e-Skills in every employment agenda across the EU, with dedicated resources to “bring offline sectors of the EU population online” – a reference to the estimated 290 million people in Europe who are not yet part of the knowledge-based economy. The manifesto sets out specific and practical recommendations for EU information society policy, employability policy, public-private partnerships, and specific measures to enhance outcomes for people with disabilities, women and senior citizens.

Microsoft is proud to endorse the Telecentre-Europe Manifesto. It represents the conviction and deep experience of dedicated community service professionals and organisations who see first hand, every day, the great challenges and remarkable achievements involved as people from all walks of life learn to use technology to improve their lives, move up the economic ladder and help others in their communities to do so too. (Click here for some excellent case studies).

We strongly agree with Telecentres-Europe that technology skills are an essential competence for employability and competitiveness in every sector of the economy, and also for the transition to a greener economy. And we firmly believe, based on our own practical experience as a partner to many thousands of telecentres across Europe, through the Microsoft Community Skills Technology Program, that a vibrant and well-funded community telecentre movement is an important local, national and pan-European strategic economic asset.

I’d like to encourage our many European partners in government, business and the NGO community to take a look at the Telecentres-Europe eSkills Manifesto and add your voice in support of an important movement for Europe’s economic resilience and long-term sustainable growth.