Microsoft Corp. recently (20th September 2012) announced a new global initiative that they choose to call the Microsoft YouthSpark. This is a program that aims to create opportunities in over 100 countries across the world for over 300 Million young people from 2012 to sometime in 2016. This initiative is part of what Microsoft calls their citizenship programme.
It is basically a drive to empower youth with educational tools both in and out of the classroom as this ultimately helps them reach their full potential as leaders of tomorrow in the employment industry and more importantly in entrepreneurship. The main of YouthSpark will see Microsoft dedicate the majority of its cash contributions to nonprofits and not-for-profit organizations that serve the youth population around the world. Further, Microsoft YouthSpark plans to include Microsoft Office365 for education, free technology tools for all teachers and students to power learning and collaboration, and Skype (you will remember that Microsoft bought out Skype a few months ago) in the classroom, a free global community for teachers to connect their students with others around the world.
This is a potentially huge commitment and as part of the initiative, Microsoft is also launching a range of new citizenship programs:
- Give for Youth, a global micro-giving marketplace focused on raising funds for nonprofits that support youth causes around the world.
- Microsoft YouthSpark Hub, an online space where people can explore and access all the youth services, programs and resources provided by Microsoft and itsnonprofit partners.
- 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.
Handling the launch of Youth Spark himself, Microsoft head honcho (or CEO) 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.” The company’s youth-focused philanthropy will be conducted in close collaboration with nonprofits around the world. Some of these worldwide organizations include GlobalGiving Foundation, TakingITGlobal, Telecentre 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.
A good example of an existing youth-focused program in Africa that will now fall under YouthSpark is the 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. “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 Office365 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.Acareer-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.
A full list of Microsoft YouthSpark programs can be found at the YouthSpark Hub.
Something Interesting: See Mary Mwende’s story on Microsoft Citizenship below..