YouthSpark Star

Riri Kawakubo

This Tokyo student’s life was transformed after she learned information technology skills through Digital Youth.

YouthSpark Stars Riri's Story

More than Digital Native—a Digital Youth

At age 22, Riri Kawakubo is of a generation pegged as “digital natives.” She balked at the label. She used computers to access the Internet and for creating documents, but little else. She was a painter who entered college to major in English culture, and had always imagined herself working in the art world.

Her idea of herself and her career path changed after she joined Digital Youth, an initiative by Windows Digital Life Consortium that brings together young people from diverse backgrounds to promote and strengthen cultural exchange, friendship, and education through various forms of digital entertainment. The program aims to show that digital culture is not just a tool to entertain but also to create, educate, and compete.

Through the Digital Youth program, she learned information technology (IT) skills. Students brainstormed ideas, put together project plans, and listened to experts in the IT field. Riri engaged with industry mentors, Microsoft employees and partner companies. She took a series of workshops, and it was the session on creating apps that really inspired her.

Riri Kawakubo speaks to a crowd of executives at the Digital Youth Awards in Japan.

Riri Kawakubo speaks to a crowd of executives at the Digital Youth Awards in Japan.

“I learned the excitement of being able to build something,” Riri said. “And I am so much more motivated since technology has become a part of my life.”

After the year of intensive training, Riri took the stage at the Digital Youth Awards in Tokyo, Japan to accept awards from Toshiba and JamLogic. On stage, she presented her idea for a social networking app for Windows 8 to an audience of executives from more than 100 companies, including Microsoft. An estimated 30,000 people watched her over a live webcast.

Since the program ended, Riri has started training young children in IT skills. She wants to share her experience and show kids how IT skills can help them shape their futures.

Her mentor Ai Shimauchi, a marketing specialist at Microsoft Japan, said Riri made sure she got the most out of each opportunity. She said she is proud that Riri has chosen to continue the cycle of giving.

Nonprofit Digital Youth aims to show that digital culture is not just a tool to entertain but to create, educate and compete.

Nonprofit Digital Youth aims to show that digital culture is a tool not just to entertain but also to create, educate, and compete.

“She developed rapidly and took action to seek a good outcome and achieve her goals,” Shimauchi said. “Her motivation to support people who are attempting to realize their potential through IT is so close to the Microsoft heart.”

While studying and working as a mentor, Riri continues work on the app concept she created while in the program. It’s called Wa, which means harmony in Japanese, and will enable people with similar interests to connect with each other. It’s still in the idea phase, but she hopes to soon find the time to complete it.

Developing the idea was a gift she received from the program. But more important is how it opened up the ideas for her future. She imagines a career in project planning and her chances have greatly improved through her participation in the Digital Youth program. With her new skills, she says she can go forward with her plans to have a family and work from anywhere in the world.

“The biggest lesson for me was that it’s really important that technology is not limited to a segment of people,” said Riri, “but accessible equally to everyone no matter where they are born, what school they attend.”

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