Tuesday, September 13, 2005

YOUTH FOR TECHNOLOGY : Enjoying A Great Deal Of Confidence

According to its Executive Director the Youth For Technology Foundation (YTF):

"Many NGOs don't start with concrete projects that address real needs. They don't listen - they just impose. There is no such thing as drive-by development.

"YTF is grassroots focused, YTF listens then finds ways to help solve some of the developing world's most pressing issues."

YTF believes that with the right resources everyone can achieve great things. And with this philosophy it seeks to uplift rural communities in developing countries by providing the educational resources, technology resources and training to empower youth to improve their lives.

The organization's goals are to:

- Build human capital and capacity through investment in education, training and technology.
- Establish centers that facilitate access to information and offer real opportunities to local communities.
- Increase civic participation for people in underserved areas to gain a greater voice in their community's development.
- Empower people to actively participate in the development of their community and assist the development of viable rural economic enterprises that will create opportunities for people, especially youth and women, to improve their economic standing.
- Promote knowledge and skills through learning and the effective use of technology.

Empowering the community to plan, drive and sustain their own social and economic development is how YTF believes that the information and communication knowledge can be built in rural areas. And this, it believes, is a holistic process.

There are several strategic approaches in reaching YTF's goals.

Involvement of the communities in the participation of the process is what YTF believes is the key ingredient of its success. They keep the focus and the content of the programs local and relevant to the community being served. In this way, YTF believes that it can transform the continent, "one person at a time, into an information affluent society" and increase the knowledge and skills possessed by the next generation. This they believes will strengthen the communities, which is one of their strategic approaches.

Another strategic approach is to focusing on education. They believe that improving the quality of general education, and specifically science education, is essential for building science and technology capacity in developing communities. For this reason, YTF works with local civil service organizations, youth networks and community schools to develop programs that facilitate technology leadership and awareness in education - from primary through to tertiary level.

The empowering of rural women and girls is a third strategic approach. These segments of the society are particularly under-represented in science and related areas of study and employment. And this is often due to intentional exclusion. It is imperative that all sectors of the community be allowed to develop their potential in science and technology in order to maximize the resources for important economic and social development. YTF has developed a "TechPreneurship" program in order to form a network of rural women to develop an understanding of how simple technology can be used to improve their households, small businesses and communities. These women come from various social classes and occupations, but primarily from those with farming and trading skills.

YTF hopes to empower rural women by affording them access to productive technologies, credit opportunities and the chance to develop skills that enhance their productivity in the economic areas in which they are engaged.

Finally, YTF seeks to Build Human and Social Capacity by creating local content in the information and communication technologies as an effective development tool.

The Goals of YTF's program are to:

- Improve academic performance and foster a positive attitude towards technology.
- Increase exposure to employment opportunities by empowering youth to become not only users but creators of local content and applications.
- Develop local capacity at the grassroots level through the utilization of information and communication technologies.
- Serve as a scalable and replicable model for future Youth for Technology Foundation sponsored Digital Villages.
- YTF's training curriculum is created in-house for the use of our program members. To request an electronic summary of courses offered for each program, please send an email to our offices.

The organization focuses on assisting poor, disadvantaged and marginalized communities so that they can better participate in the digital economy. It is hoped that the primary beneficiaries of the program will be young people, ages 16 to 25 years, who will gain the knowledge necessary to be advocates of these issues. The secondary beneficiaries are the rural dwellers who do not have the adequate access to information and as a result become undereducated and isolated from the global economy.

During the course of its existence YTF has enrolled over 400 youth for participation in our programs with a 100% graduation rate.

One of YTF's major programs is the TechKids program. TechKids is offered to children between the ages of 8 and 12 years and allows them to explore their own ideas, develop skills and build confidence using technology. It is a three-month program are designed to generate an interest in technology at a young age through projects based on children's own interests and to teach young people basic computer techniques and basic computer applications. Another outcome of the program is that it identifies students at a young age who have acumen for technology.

TechKids (as well as its subsequent program: TechTeens) engages in community building by requiring each child to commit to 80 hours of volunteer hours in their villages after graduation. These 80 hours may be serve by mentoring other youth at the center, participating in rural development initiatives (such as farming or market-related activities) or volunteering in local schools, civil service organizations or local unions.

The TechTeens program is a four-month training program designed to develop an understanding of technology in students between the ages of 13 and 19 years.

Technology is not an integral part of the public educational curriculum and millions of young people have yet to achieve the skill level of their counterparts in more developed nations when it comes to digital technology. So TechTeens seeks:

- To train students in basic computer skills and to understand the benefits of technology.
- To assist students in using technology as a tool for learning and to improve academic performance.
- To enhance communication skills among students.
- To develop the essential technology skills to excel in the labor market. Courses offered at this level include Windows, Office, HTML/Front Page and Photoshop.
- After successfully completing the TechTeens program, graduates spend up to 8 weeks at a local community business as part of YTF's Technical Entrepreneurship Leadership Program (TELP).

Tech Communities is a community development program "designed to reach and educate underserved, grassroots community members on how to use technology to create more opportunities for themselves."

This program lasts 3 months and targets women producers in the community. During these 3 months, the participants attend workshops and are mentored on how simple technology tools can provide greater access to markets for their products such as traditional African handicrafts, textiles and jewelry. In this way, the TechCommunities program:

- Provides quality, technology-focused outreach and education to underserved communities.
- Educates families and communities about the economics of technology and use of technology in daily lives.
- Strengthens rural communities by giving people a reason to invest in developing their local communities instead of migrating to urban areas in search of employment or market opportunities; and
- Increases social capital by connecting marginalized community members to information resources.

Finally, there is the TechEnhancement program, which is a workforce development program and is designed to reach individuals who are currently in the workforce but need to develop or enhance their skills. This program provides bi-monthly workshops on career development and business plan writing and is offered at the Owerri Digital Village. (Read about the
Owerri Digital Village Owerri Digital Village here.)

YTF partners with existing community organizations and non-profit organizations. Thos non-profit organizations with which it partners are particularly focused on providing technology access to rural communities, leveraging existing resources to serve more of the community members and to share best practices. A short list of these partners include:

Community Technology Center Network (CTCNet)
Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP)
Global Education Tele-Community Initiative (GEI)
World Bank Foundations
World Bank Development Gateway
Digital Partners Institute (Grameen Foundation)
Nigerian IT Professionals in the Americas (NITPA)
Teachers Without Borders (TWB)
OneWorld Africa
World Bank Small Grants Program
Mgbala Agwa Youths Forum (MAYF)
SchoolNet Africa/Mtandao Afrika
Stanford University
Reuters Foundation
United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS)
Google, Inc.

This is a pretty impressive list of organizations that have confidence in YTF, maybe it would be good for you to go to their web site and find out more about this organization and why it has engendered so much confidence.
Youth For Technology Foundation

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