Empowering Asian youth

Wednesday, 7 December 2011 01:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

IT and skill development play a pivotal role, asserts Microsoft’s Harnick at ‘Accelerating Asia Pacific 2011’ summit

By Cheranka Mendis in Malaysia

The IT industry in Asia is expected to grow at a rate of 4.8% per year in a five year period beginning from 2008. The expected growth would generate 27 million jobs and 32,000 new business ventures.

The region with an economic growth of 6.5% has managed to take over seven positions from the top 10 IT exports in the world as well. With more than 150 million people expected to enter the prime of their age over the next decade in the region, companies should now focus on developing and empowering the youth to take on the increasingly popular field of IT.

The IT industry is therefore is a critical factor for the development of Asia and in empowering the future generation to take on the reins of development.

Speaking at Microsoft’s ‘Accelerating Asia Pacific 2011’ summit in Kuala Lumpur, Microsoft’s Citizenship and Public Affairs General Manager Lori Harnick said, “Like their peers around the world Asians are not just interested in driving their own success they are interested in building a future of their own community.”

She quoted that Global studies have showed that 92% of the world youth believe that the world must change for the better while 82% believe it is their duty to drive that change and 81% believe they have the power to make that change.

“Fifty per cent of the people under the age of 25 in the world are here in Asia; that is a number that us just under two billion people,” Harnick said. “To drive their community and country to the world, education, experience and opportunity must be given for them to realize their full potential. The future is in their hands.”

The basic problem of access to technology is critical with one billon people having no access to ICT. She stated that 72 million primary school age students are not in school. “The lack of access to IT does not affect the emerging markets. In fact majority of the American youth living in poverty has no access to ICT/ internet.”

International Monetary Fund is said to have estimated 25% unemployment during the last few years. IMF is said to have reported that75 million youth of the age between15-25 years were unemployed by end 2010. From the employed 115 million got less than US$10 a week.

“If we do not act now to revise the trends the opportunity divide will grow. We need partnership and collaboration to get this back on track.”

Harnick stated that Microsoft believes in leveraging their combined technology, brain power and network to make opportunity happen to as many young minds as possible.  Putting forth evidence of success stories of working together in Asia on collaborative measures, she commended the Sri Lankan IT development initiative ‘Gamata IT’ (IT to the village). “We are proud to have gotten the opportunity to work with the Ministry of Education in Sri Lanka on ‘Gamata IT’ which helps deliver IT skills and access to a large group of people across the country by providing youth and the communities with IT. They are not just improving their daily lives but they connect them to the future of Sri Lanka as it has never been done before. We are empowering them.”

She also spoke of the ‘Imagine Cup,’ known to be one of Microsoft’s significant investments to help the youth of the world imagine the power of technology. The global competition of ‘Imagine Cup’ this year received over 325,000 application from across 100 countries. Asia has a good showing with many entering in multiple team category and winning as well. Going beyond imaginative into realisation is BETTER Thailand. Standing for Building Employability Through Technology and Entrepreneurship Resources BETTER brings together technology and business to help the youth stand up on their own. Visayan Forum Foundation Philippines was also named as an initiative that has helped the youth.

“The youth and their empowerment play a critical role when one considers the future of the world. All opportunities must be taken to give them the best opportunities to come forward and take on the responsibilities. Collaboration could therefore be a main source for empowering the youth,” Harnick said.