The importance of strengthening cooperation to bring quality education to young people, and the relevance of driving innovation and sustainable development to achieve local growth were some of the topics discussed during the group sessions of the Government Leaders Forum: Latin America and the Caribbean 2013, organized by Microsoft.

During the event, representatives from various countries from throughout the region, such as government delegates, company directors, NGO representatives and members of academic institutions recognized the responsibility of providing young people with more opportunities to drive innovation and economic growth within the region.

During the Forum, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed with the Organization of Ibero-American Youth (OIJ) in order to offer young people from Latin America and the Caribbean the opportunity to access better education, find a job or set up their own businesses. This announcement is aligned with Microsoft’s YouthSpark program, which aims to create associations which will help young people reach their full potential.

Alejo Ramírez, Secretary General of the OIJ, stated that: “there is a huge need for training and resources among young people living in the Ibero-American community, in order to help drive down unemployment and increase access to education.”

During the panel Youth Opportunities in Latin America, William S. Reese, President and Chief Executive Officer of the International Youth Foundation (IYF), spoke about the benefits of employing young people for the development of societies, considering that there are 150 million young people in Latin America with an average age of 28 years old, and about the need to develop young people’s skills for their integration into productive sectors.

Along the same lines, Romina Castellini, from the Voice of Youth in Uruguay, stressed that “it’s necessary to teach young people to be productive, and that software development strengthens creativity to find out logical solutions, with customized approaches and with the analysis and structuring of ideas that today’s world requires. Because of this, training in programming is crucial beginning at an early age.”

Opportunities in Latin America

During the Forum, four discussion panels were held to explore the means of tackling other challenges facing the region. The topics discussed during these sessions were: Women and Social Inclusion, Innovation and Society, Economic Growth and Cities, and Redesigning Education. During these sessions, government representatives and political and social stakeholders discussed the opportunities available in these areas and the ways in which to take advantage of them. Among some of the ideas discussed, the following speakers’ contributions are particularly poignant:

  • Eleonora Menicucci, Minister of Women’s Affairs of Brazil, stated on the topic of Women and Social Inclusion that "There is no country that can have social and economic sustainability without balance between men and women. Society must live under a constant partnership with the public security system and a zero tolerance towards violence against women";
  • The Vice-Minister of Information, Technology and Communications of Colombia, María Isabel Mejía, noted on the topics of Innovation and Society that applying ITC for public policies, such as infrastructure and services, can help solve societal problems.”
  • The Governor of the Province of Cordoba in Argentina, during his participation in the panel Youth Opportunities in Latin America, pointed that "Public policy must focus on youth and on the need to adequately train teachers, to meet today’s world of education and customize it according to the capabilities of individuals and the new digital tools"
  • Alfonso Vergara, President of Metropoli Foundation, during the introduction to the panel of Economic Growth and Cities, stressed that "technology accelerates innovation, so it is necessary to connect and respond to both key elements in all the different sectors of society. This will make our cities more efficient and competitive. The cities are changing the world so intensively that it is crucial to find connections between technology, innovation and urban intelligence".
  • Arnóbio Marques de Almeida Junior, Secretary of the Ministry of Education of Brazil, said on the issue of Redesigning Education that "It is urgent to change the educational model and focus on teaching and understanding how to learn processes and procedures, as the new education must focus on increasing the quality of life expectations”.

These are some of the ideas that were discussed during the plenary sessions of the Government Leaders Forum Latin America and the Caribbean 2013. “It is of great importance to create these interactions among the different key players in our societies, such as government entities, teachers and NGOs in order to tackle the pressing social and economic obstacles currently faced in the region,” commented Hernán Rincón, President for Microsoft Latin America.

Microsoft is always committed to collaborating closely and transparently with both governments and academic and non-governmental groups in order to extend the social benefits offered by technology.