Companies are working to empower in the tech sector. Photo: <a href=””> UN Women Arab States (Flickr)</a>
Companies are working to empower in the tech sector. Photo: UN Women Arab States (Flickr)

With the iLab educating in Liberia and the Switchboard mobilizing health across Africa, Google is working on global technology empowerment.

For 75 million unemployed youth around the world, the tech sector offers promising career opportunities with the IDC reporting that a million tech sector jobs will be created between 2010 and 2015 . As Google and other tech companiesmillion tech sector jobs will be created between 2010 and 2015 push high-tech education, the possibility for youth qualifying for good jobs grows. There are millions of tech-sector jobs, but only skilled workers can fill them. At the end of the summer Google’s philanthropic arm provided another $6 million to aid programs like iLab and Switchboard.

-Provides free trainings in open-source tools, reliable Internet, electricity, trained IT staff and a space for technology start-ups to flourish in Liberia.
-Partnered with Ushahidi Liberia , supported by iHub in Nairobi and the AfriLabsAssociation.
-Watch their video and their blog.

-Creates a network for Tanzanian, Ghanaian and Liberian doctors, medical and clinical officers to share information.
-The ratio of doctors to patients in Tanzania is 1:18,000; the ability to share information helps doctors deal with a complex range of health issues.
-Read their blog.

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What system provides jobs for African youth? Photo: <a href=””> Espen Faugstad(Flickr)</a>
What system provides jobs for African youth? Photo: Espen Faugstad(Flickr)

Following a new movement to increase youth employment, the African Economic Outlook (AEO) published a report this year outlining African youth employment opportunities and needs. One component of the report highlighted four changes that need to take place.

1. Government departments and action groups must be more closely coordinated in developing their skills training programs.

Many groups are trying to help increase employment but the vast number aren’t working in concert. Job creation and skill development programs are also typically divided among many branches of government. Without clear coordination, groups may over-provide in some areas while leaving other needs underserved.

2. Comprehensive employment data is needed.

Reports on employment in many African countries are often incomplete or simply not done, particularly when it comes to segmenting data by demographics and employment sectors. According to the report, “The lack of data makes it difficult for policy makers to understand the nature of the employment challenge and take informed decisions on how to support young people in the labour market.” Programs that create jobs and provide trainings to develop skills need to be refocused on actual labor opportunities.

3. What works? What doesn’t? No one knows.

Employment programs base their goals and objectives on the obstacles they think youth face in obtaining jobs. Without data on what these obstacles really are and what works to overcome them, success is hard to achieve. The report notes that “more and better evaluations mixing control group designs with participative methods and cost-effectiveness analysis are needed to help policy makers identify what really works best.” Adding to that, the AEO report also finds most programs are insufficiently funded, so programs that do work may not have the opportunity to scale or share lessons learned.

4. Focus on all the factors behind unemployment.

Programs often focus on one aspect of youth unemployment, such as a single job skill or single aspect of financial literacy. But studies show that a much more holistic method is needed. For youth to find jobs and be able to keep them, they need a wide variety of social, technical and financial skills.

Africa has six of the top 10 fastest-growing economies globally. With 200 million youth on the continent, these changes could help youth be part of that growth.

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Youth Spark works to support youth education, especially in the tech sector. Photo: <a href=””> Youth Spark (Microsoft)</a>
Youth Spark works to support youth education, especially in the tech sector. Photo: Youth Spark (Microsoft)

Microsoft is rethinking its charity strategies to spread the spark of high-tech education—and maybe to train its own future employees.

The publicized focus of YouthSpark, Microsoft’s new philanthropy program announced in September, is on getting kids education, helping them find a job or start a business.

Chief executive Steve Ballmer said Microsoft would change its philanthropic strategy to work with organizations and non-profits that foster “opportunities for education, employment, and entrepreneurship for young people.”

YouthSpark’s focus is more specific, though: Most of the training it offers is in the tech sector, focused mostly on creating developers and designers. According to a statement by Microsoft last month, its struggle in this economy is not creating job openings, but filling them.

YouthSpark, for all the good it’s likely to do, seems to be part of that. And for development organizations that wish to work with Microsoft, focusing on teaching tech skills to people who need them may be a good investment.

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Dancing, an innovative way to teach Latin American youth financial literacy. Photo: <a href="">lluisribes (flickr)</a>
Dancing, an innovative way to teach Latin American youth financial literacy. Photo:lluisribes (flickr)

The Multilateral Investment Fund is turning Latin American governments’ agendas into action to improve financial literacy among youth.

Poor financial literacy is the major economic obstacle to young people’s success,Miguel Angel Carreon of the National Youth Institute of Mexico told the Global Youth Economic Opportunities Conference last month. The Multilateral Investment Fund’s “Give Youth a Chance: An Agenda for Action,” a retrospective report presented at the conference, looked back at the group’s 18 years of financial literacy experience in Latin America. Past challenges informed key components of the new strategy, including tailoring programs at a much more local level and developing youth skills trainings based directly on in-demand jobs.

A number of programs funded by the MIF have shown a potential for replication, like in Rio de Janeiro where the Galpão Aplauso program is working on developing workplace skills using the performing arts in favelas. The program’s goal is to transform “disaffected social beneficiaries into active members of society accepted by the labor market.” Initial results have been positive, especially for the most at-risk youth entering the job market.

The MIF hopes their new, tailored models will reverse the trends of financial literacy and get youth, dancing or otherwise, into jobs.

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A favorite pastime could be saving the world Photo: <a href="">Kevin Bongart (Flickr)</a>
A favorite pastime could be saving the world Photo: Kevin Bongart (Flickr)


From world hunger to peace to economic development, a new tool is making a difference: video games.

By the time an average American turns 21, they have played 10,000 hours of video games. That is equal to the amount of time they will spend in school in the United States between 5th and 12th grade or it is equal to five years in a full time job. According to Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, a person who spends 10,000 hours on any activity “masters” it.

Take World of Warcraft, a hugely popular interactive virtual reality game with 10.3 million players around the world. It’s not your ’90s Mario Brothers with 10 controls. Warcraft is so complex that the online wiki encyclopedia about the game–characters, history, events–has 96,890 pages, making it one of the largest wikis in the world. Mastering Warcraft means internalizing vast amounts of the information in that wiki.

Games could be a source of a lot more than just fun.

World of Warcraft is not saving the world. But focusing on the positive uses of video games could turn gamers into global heroes. The education potential of games is huge, in part because so many people are already playing them. There are more than 500,000 million active gamers and, by 2012, another billion will join them. That is roughly 22 percent of the global population. Globally, we spend 3 billion hours playing video games. There are few activities that over a fifth of the population do that can be used to create change. If we harnessed that time and energy for really tough global problems, we just might be able to solve them.

Using games for social benefit, or “games for change,” is a fast-growing movement led by an organization founded in 2004 under the same name. Games for Change’s mission is to “catalyze social impact through digital games.”

Using games for positive social change has evolved just as gaming itself has evolved. As more people became aware of the popularity of games, they began to spread. First came simple educational games: The Oregon Trail and Reader Rabbit were popular in the United States in the ’90s.

The United Nations saw the value of games and was an early pioneer in figuring out how to use them to create positive social change–and putting funding behind it.


Food Force a popular Facebook game. Photo: <a href="">Food Force</a>
Food Force a popular Facebook game. Photo: Food Force


    • Food Force, launched by the World Food Program in 2005, puts players in the shoes of an aid worker. They start off with a fairly simple plot of wheat. If their wheat survives, the aid worker has to figure out how to get the food to a processing plant, showing the player the complexities of the global food supply chain. But drought and pests–devastating issues that real-life farmers face every year–often hit the player’s fields, forcing them to manage a hunger crisis. The game is played by 10 million on Facebook, and raises money for the World Food Program by letting players donate through the game.


Evoke asks you to take an urgent quest to change the world. Photo: <a href=""Evoke</a>
Evoke asks you to take an urgent quest to change the world. Photo:


  • Evoke , a real-time game published online in 2010, was funded by the World Bank as a tool to inspire and create real innovations that would help the solve global issues. The game was set in Africa, but the solutions could have impact around the world. For a 10 week period, players followed a virtual storyline while earning points from fellow competitors for blogging about real-world social change activities they did as part of the game, such as developing a bike that creates enough electricity when pedalled to charge personal electronics.

Jane McGonigal, a key proponent of the movement, gave a popular TED talk in 2010, further pushing the concept of gaming for change forward.

We think games have the potential to have a positive and powerful impact on society.

“Games are really good for exploring complex issues in society,” continued Games for Change spokesperson Suzanne Seggerman in an interview on ABC News in 2011.

Social change games have been branching to all fields and all styles. Foldit is a game designed to discover protein structures that will solve genetic problems and diseases. Each player gets to fold proteins and the game determines if that protein solves a medical problem. Busy-work that would take someone a lifetime to do alone is spread among thousands of players in order to help teach human puzzle-solving strategies to computers. Researchers had been working for over a decade on discovering an AIDS protein that may lead to a cure. Earlier this year, the gamers solved the protein puzzle within 10 days.


Folding proteins in Foldit solves real science mysteries. Photo: <a href="">Foldit</a>
Folding proteins in Foldit solves real science mysteries. Photo: Foldit


  • Peacemakers is helping establish understanding between Israelis and Palestinians. As a player, you are the leader of both nations and have to use real facts reported on in the news to determine the actions you would take to successfully lead that nation peacefully. Players see not only their political views but also the other side’s, too.

The number of these games has been growing, and as these games become more established, the success of their objectives is becoming more apparent.

For organizations with messages or agendas, games are a fun way for people to get involved. Technology is spreading from laptops to tablets to mobile phones. Seventy-five percent of the world’s population has access to mobile phones, making the possibility of scaling games for change incredible.

Games that create positive change is a way for companies that produce games to reach an entirely new market segment. At the same time, gaming audiences welcome the chance to reverse the stereotype of “gamers.”

For game developers, it’s also a new market: helping non-profits with social missions reach a new, engaged audiences. For the first time next year, the Games for Change organization will get an entire day at the annual Game Developers Conference to help more developers get involved.

The opportunities for charitable organizations are increasing every day, and as groups like Games for Change have conferences of their own, recruiting developers to create the games is getting easier. Soon, a favorite pastime may actually do a lot of good.


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Published in Christian Science Monitor:

A young women working the fields in Egypt Photo: <a href=””> oxfamnovib (Flickr)</a>.
A young women working the fields in Egypt Photo: oxfamnovib (Flickr).

As the youth unemployment rate closes in on 25 percent in the Middle East, young people are looking for jobs, and governments are looking for innovative ways to create them. Science could be a yet unexplored solution to youth unemployment in Egypt and Tunisia.

A new project in the two nations, launched this summer and reported on by theScience and Development Network, puts together teams of young researchers to evaluate businesses “that depend on scientific innovation and inventions.”

The youth researchers, who receive wages from their governments, report back with two bodies of information: The first part evaluates how successful business ventures use scientific innovations. The second examines where business opportunities lie. Current innovations range from agricultural waste solutions to new animal breeds better adapted to the environment. Based on these evaluations, the governments jointly provides funds to help the innovations with the most potential succeed and help start-up projects based on opportunities the teams identify.

A component of the project trains potential entrepreneurs in start-up finance, replicating innovations and business management. Egypt and Tunisia are hoping youth-run, scientifically innovative businesses will help solve unemployment, environmental, and agricultural issues.

Related: New model for Middle East economic practices starts with Tunisia, Libya


Originally published on Gloabl Envision:

Mayol Dau started his own after-school business - repairing mobile phones and recharging their batteries for customers. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
Mayol Dau started his own after-school business – repairing mobile phones and recharging their batteries for customers. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps

As the global youth unemployment crisis continues to make headlines, the annual Global Youth Economic Opportunities Conference makes its way to Washington, D.C. With more than 400 participants from 53 countries headed to the conference this week, their conversations may just spark the innovative ideas and collaborations needed to reverse unemployment trends.

“Linking Youth to Rural Markets” is the special focus of this year’s conference, hosted by Making Cents International, a social enterprise that provides training and technical assistance to help vulnerable populations access markets and find meaningful work. Headliners at the conference include Jose Manuel Salazar of the International Labor Organization, Gabrielle Zedlmayer, vice president of sustainability and social innovation at Hewlett Packard, and Miguel Ángel Carreón, Mexico’s director general at the Ministry of Youth.

Participants will listen to presentations and join conversations on a wide range of issues from involving women and girls in business to the helping youth develop marketable skills based on growth industries. A number of the panels revolve around creating meaningful jobs to keep youth employed and impassioned.

Follow along on twitter: #ImpactGlobalYouth

Access the conference agenda here (PDF).
Keep the converstaion going at

Coming up: Mercy Corps’ Tara Noronha and Rebecca Wolfe share how they engaged young people to conduct market surveys of their own communities to help them develop businesses that meet market demand.


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