Indonesia: The ASEAN Foundation and Microsoft today announced the launch of the ASEAN Digital Innovation Programme, aimed at equipping underserved ASEAN youth aged 15 to 35 with future-ready skills.
ASEAN’s future depends on its youth
Youth, who account for more than 33% of ASEAN’s population, undoubtedly play a key role in bringing the region closer to its aspirations as outlined in the ASEAN Community blueprints. All ten ASEAN Member States have intensified their efforts to develop and empower youth under the realization that the future of ASEAN is in the hands of its youth as they become ASEAN’s future leaders and catalysts for economic, social and cultural development.
However, the first ASEAN Youth Development Index (ASEAN YDI) conducted in 2016 revealed a worrying trend. The ASEAN YDI serves as a key instrument of the ASEAN Work Plan on Youth 2016-2020 in formulating evidence-based policy and planning youth development programmes in the region. It indicated that the youth unemployment ratio of the region has reached an alarming figure of 6.4 over the 2011 to 2015 period, meaning that youth were 6.4 times more likely to be unemployed than their adult counterparts in the labour force.
Preparing ASEAN youth for industrial revolution 4.0
The ASEAN Digital Innovation Programme aims to reach 46,000 underserved youth in seven ASEAN countries (Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam) and equip them with digital skills to enable them to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution. To achieve this objective, local partners from each of the seven countries will be brought in to deliver capacity building workshops for over 500 educators by harnessing a specifically developed learning module.
Following the implementation of the workshops, a regional blog-making competition for youth from 10 ASEAN Member States will take place at the end of the year. The competition will challenge ASEAN’s youth to create a blog on ASEAN-wide sustainability challenges. Besides the competition, another key milestone of the programme will be an integrated website, which will be launched in April this year. The website will serve not only as the foremost e-learning platform for underserved youth in ASEAN to deepen their digital skills, but also as medium to spread ASEAN’s awareness among youth.
Yvonne Thomas, Director of the Global Digital Skills program, Microsoft Philanthropies shared “At Microsoft, we strongly believe that technology can be a force for social and economic inclusion. By equipping young people with digital skills, we’re increasing their economic opportunities while also addressing the talent shortage faced by industries as they digitally transform. With the ASEAN Digital Innovation Programme, we are committed to building the capacity of the ASEAN Foundation and its local training partners to equip underserved youth – in particular young women – for the future of work. Through high-quality and equitable computer science education, youth will develop creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills – essential attributes for them to thrive across all sectors.”
Realizing the goals of ASEAN Community
One of the visions of the ASEAN education sector is to promote a community that acknowledges the importance of youth as the future of ASEAN, and one with an enhanced awareness of ASEAN as a region. This vision is aligned with what the programme is aiming to achieve through its combination of interventions.
Furthermore, the ASEAN Digital Innovation Programme will also play a significant role in achieving the goals as laid out in the ASEAN Work Plan on Youth 2016-2020, and, by extension, the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint 2025, especially from the way the programme strives to (1) sustain the focus on youth entrepreneurship through structured capacity building and mentoring programmes, (2) enhance youth employability through skills training and life-long education, (3) enhance awareness and appreciation of an ASEAN community through mutually beneficial people-to-people exchange programmes, and (4) increase youth competencies and resilience with advanced technological and managerial skills.
“We’re happy to announce that the ASEAN Foundation has joined hands with Microsoft in implementing a regional programme that aims to equip ASEAN youth with digital skills that are critically necessary in the current day and age,” said Elaine Tan, the Executive Director of ASEAN Foundation. “We hope that this partnership will also highlight a meaningful engagement and collaboration that can take place among different stakeholders to develop a regional initiative by working together in achieving sustainable development that can bring tangible impact to the ASEAN Community.”