Building peace in the minds of men and women

Mobile empowered youth will resolve issues of sustainable development

UNESCO organized an Experts Meeting of world-leading training providers of mobile applications development for young people at UNESCO Headquarters from 19 to 20 March 2014 to share best practices and design a strategy to reach a critical mass of young people.

Within the framework of the new and innovative YouthMobile Initiative, UNESCO conducted a global search and invited experts from 15 initiatives from 12 countries to share their training materials, critical success factors, and the challenges of scaling to national levels.

The UNESCO YouthMobile Initiative aims to directly engage young people—with particular attention to young women—to acquire the high-level skills and confidence to develop, promote, and sell mobile applications.

By 2017, UNESCO is seeking to train over 25,000 young people to release at least 5,000 mobile applications especially for areas of sustainable development. The YouthMobile Strategy has 3 stages:

  1. Identify the best, existing, openly-licensed training materials;
  2. Work with Ministries of Education, Youth, and Employment to integrate the training materials; and
  3. Launch the 1st Global List of Mobile Apps Competitions

To identify the best, existing training materials in mobile applications development for young people, UNESCO conducted a global search and applied a rigorous Assessment Criteria to identify the best training providers. The following training providers were invited to the Experts Meeting to share best practices and plan the way forward:

  1. Women in Technology, Uganda
  2. m:Lab East Africa / eMobilis, Kenya
  3. Nairobi Dev School, Kenya
  4. The MASH Project, India
  5. FOSSASIA, Vietnam
  6. Technovation, USA
  7. Apps For Good, England
  8. Esprit, Tunisia
  9. AppInventor.MIT.EDU, USA
  10. AllDevCamp, Cote d'Ivoire
  11. Mozilla / Appmaker, USA
  12. Orange, France
  13. Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa, Côte D’Ivoire

“We wanted to assess their training programmes, and to work out the pathways for scaling up their program to national levels in order to reach critical mass of students,” said Mr Abel Caine, Programme Specialist in the Knowledge Societies’ Division and the project’s co-leader. “Each of these training providers only engages about 200 students at a time, while we’re aiming for viable strategies to reach many thousands of students at a time.”

Mr Davide Storti, Programme Specialist in the UNESCO Knowledge Societies Division and co-lead on the YouthMobile Initiative identifies the lack of scaling opportunities as a crucial UNESCO contribution. “What none of them have are the contacts and resources that we have at UNESCO with Ministries of Educations, Science, Culture, Youth, Labour, and ICT as well as teacher training institutions, Consultative NGOs, and specialist networks such as the ASP Network of Schools.”

The Experts Meeting opened with a captivating presentation by Dr. Indrajit Banerjee, Director of the UNESCO Knowledge Societies Division in which he stressed the importance of ICT and Open Solutions for sustainable development.

The experts delivered a series of presentations on their initiatives and engaged in spirited dialogue, brainstorming, and collaboration on how to identify the ideal mobile app training material as well as ways to integrate these training materials into formal and informal teaching and learning environments.

Among the experts participating in the meeting was Ms Barbara Birungi, Director of the Women in Technology Initiative (WITU) from Uganda who praised the UNESCO initiative. “Over 51% of the population of Uganda is youth, with a lot of unemployment. There are a high number of mobile phones coming in so I see a possibility of YouthMobile contributing to solving the unemployment problem in Uganda.”

Ken Mwenda, Managing Director of eMobilis, Kenya said “For us, it is a really exciting space to be in because young people are able to solve problems in their local communities, creating locally relevant apps. And hopefully also create entrepreneurial ventures that help them employ others.”
The Experts Meeting contributed to the global celebrations for the 2014 International Women’s Day and Open Education Week.

Next steps for UNESCO include organizing country or regional workshops to gain insight from a wide range of stakeholders, and to present comprehensive plans to Governments.