By Emeka Aginam
As part of its commitment to empower youths around the world, the global software giant, Microsoft Corp yesterday announced a new global initiative, Microsoft YouthSpark, that aims to create opportunities for 300 million youths in more than 100 countries during the next three years.
YouthSpark, a new companywide initiative is expected to create opportunities for 300 million youths through a range of global programs, delivered in partnership with governments, nonprofits and other businesses
The capacity building initiative includes citizenship and other company programs both new and enhanced that empower youth to imagine and realize their full potential by connecting them with greater opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship.
Through Microsoft YouthSpark, the company will dedicate the majority of its cash contributions to nonprofits that serve the youth population around the world.
Additionally, Microsoft YouthSpark will include Office 365 for education, free technology tools for all teachers and students to power learning and collaboration, and Skype in the classroom, a free global community for teachers to connect their students with others around the world.
As part of the initiative, Microsoft said it was also launching a range of new citizenship programs: including Give for Youth, a global micro-giving marketplace focused on raising funds for nonprofits that support youth causes around the world.
YouthSpark Hub, an online space where people can explore and access all the youth services, programs and resources provided by Microsoft and its nonprofit partners and Microsoft Innovate for Good, a global online community enabling youth to collaborate, inspire and support each other while using technology to make a difference in their communities.
Speaking during the launching of the capacity building initiative, Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer said, “Through Microsoft YouthSpark we are making a commitment to help 300 million young people around the world achieve their dreams by focusing our citizenship efforts and other company resources on connecting young people with opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship.
“We believe that working with our partners we can help empower young people to change their world, and we are committed to using our technology, talent, time and resources to do that.”
For one thing, the company’s youth-focused philanthropy will be conducted in close collaboration with nonprofits around the world.
These include worldwide organisations such as GlobalGiving Foundation, TakingITGlobal, Telecentre.org Foundation and the International Youth Foundation, as well as regional nonprofits such as Silatech in the Middle East, The Trust for Americas in Latin America, AIESEC International in Europe, and the ASEAN Foundation in Asia.
An example of an existing youth-focused program in Africa that will now fall under YouthSpark is The Youth Empowerment Program (YEP), an initiative of Microsoft and the International Youth Foundation (IYF) that from 2007 to 2010 provided young people in Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and Tanzania with training in life skills, employability and entrepreneurship as well as hands-on experience through internships.
By the end of the program, 9500 youth were trained in ITC and other marketable skills, with at least 70% of beneficiaries placed in jobs, income-generating self-employment, and/or voluntary community service.
“Our next generation of citizenship will focus on the next generation of people,” said Brad Smith, executive vice president, Microsoft, adding that, “The global unemployment rate for workers under age 25 is 12.7 percent, which is double the rate for the world as a whole. This is indicative of a growing opportunity divide between young people who have the access, skills and opportunities to be successful and those who do not. We must work together to close the opportunity divide for youth and help secure the future of this generation and the future of our global economy.”
The International Youth Foundation Opportunity for Action report, published in March 2012, showed that nearly 75 million young people worldwide were unemployed in 2011. As the global youth population continues to grow there are more than 2.2 billion people between the ages of 6 and 24 today the opportunity divide is widening.
Microsoft YouthSpark goes beyond philanthropy and brings together a range of global programs that empower young people with access to technology and a better education and inspire young people to imagine the opportunities they have to realise their potential, including previously mentioned Office 365 for education and Skype in the classroom, as well as the following:
*Partners in Learning. A professional development program for government officials, school leaders and educators to help them with new approaches to teaching and learning, using technology to help students develop 21st century skills.
* Microsoft IT Academy. A career-ready education program available to all accredited academic institutions, providing students with 21st century technology.
* DreamSpark. Free access to Microsoft designer and developer tools for students and educators, helping advance key technical skills during the high school and college years, a critical time in a student’s development.
*Imagine Cup. The world’s premier youth technology competition, which challenges students to apply their knowledge and passion to develop technical solutions for social impact, to develop engaging games, and to demonstrate innovation that can benefit others, local communities and the world.
*Students to Business. A program that matches university students with jobs or internships in the technology industry.
* BizSpark. A software startup program, providing young entrepreneurs with access to Microsoft software development tools and connections with key industry players, including investors, to help them start a new business.