Unlocking the potential of Latin America and the Caribbean’s youth

15 March 2012 | Frank McCosker, Managing Director, Multilateral and Bilateral Organisations, Public Sector

This year’s Annual Meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank takes place in the southernmost capital city in the Americas, Montevideo. With education and youth unemployment among some of the most pressing issues to be tackled by top economic decision-makers in attendance, it is fitting that Montevideo is also a hub of commerce and higher education, and home to Uruguay’s first university, the Universidad de la República.

Microsoft is attending the meeting in support of our collaboration with IDB since 2006 on projects related to areas such as youth, technology, employability, and education. In recognition of the importance of technology to development, President of IDB, Luis Alberto Moreno, said of the partnership, “In Latin America and the Caribbean, technology is playing a crucial role in fostering development through innovation and capacity building. The IDB is partnering with Microsoft to develop projects that facilitate ICT access for citizens and institutions across the region.”

At last year’s Annual Meeting, the second phase of the Youth Development Fund, entitled "Youth Technology for Job Insertion Fund," was launched with the announcement of a further $2.8 million (USD) invested jointly by the IDB/MIF and Microsoft. An expert committee is currently selecting the first of three rounds of projects, which will provide a wide range of youth training programs involving life skills, leadership, and job training.

Support of this kind for the youth of Latin America and the Caribbean is desperately needed. With a population of nearly 40 percent under 30, its young labor force should be one of the region’s greatest assets. However, there are currently 30 million young people unemployed.

Working with young people for over a decade and coordinating a network of more than 9,000 youth organizations, IDB has recognized that education and equipping young people with 21st century skills are key to achieving development goals. I will participate in an innovation panel today in the lead up to the Annual Meeting which brings experts and youth leaders together to discuss the social and economic development opportunities presented by increasing youth participation in culture, sports, and innovation.

Underpinning a vast number of IDB’s projects to reduce poverty and foster development across Latin America and the Caribbean is a focus on education. Following the earthquake in Haiti, IDB has been working with Microsoft and other stakeholders to support the education system by helping schools and students gain access to improved education through technology and basic computer literacy skills.

In Costa Rica, IDB, Microsoft and Intel are partnering on a pilot of the global Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills (ATC21s) collaboration to change the way students are taught in the classroom, to make their education relevant for the 21st century and beyond. So far, the pilot has conducted field work to incorporate new schools, run innovative assessment tests on a large scale, and disseminated project material around Costa Rica.

And finally, today  in Montevideo, in one of the lowest income neighborhoods called Barrio Casavalle, a new  community technology center was opened, established through IDB’s collaboration with Microsoft and Telecentre.org. By applying the latest technology designed for communities and education, Windows Multipoint Server (WMS), 20 community users at one time can have access to information technology to learn new skills, communicate with their relatives in other countries, and pursue entrepreneurial possibilities.

The variety of projects developed as a result of IDB’s longstanding relationship with Microsoft is testament to President Moreno’s commitment to facilitating ICT access to foster development. Young people are a valuable resource, who, when mobilized through ICT access and training, can increase responsiveness to traditional and nontraditional challenges alike and to social and economic development opportunities in the region.

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Frank McCosker
Managing Director, Multilateral and Bilateral Organisations, Public Sector

About the Author

Frank McCosker | Managing Director, Multilateral and Bilateral Organisations, Public Sector

Frank manages Microsoft engagement with multilateral organizations including international financial institutions, intergovernmental organizations and bilateral providers of Official Development Assistance (ODA). Read more