Digital skills are becoming essential for the jobs of today and tomorrow. From digital literacy to computer science education, these skills can open the door to greater economic opportunities, in future workplaces. Unfortunately, these skills are beyond the reach of countless young people in Egypt.
Microsoft believes in a future where every young person has the skills, knowledge and opportunity to succeed, and has made a commitment to impart digital skills to 10 million youth in the Middle East and Africa, in the next three years.
Its long-lasting initiative, YouthSpark, helps bring this to life by working to empower all youth to imagine and realise their full potential, by connecting them with greater opportunities for education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The initiative achieves this through unique programmes and partnerships with governments, business and nonprofit organisations, such as Code.org.
For example, Microsoft partners with Code.org annually, during the Computer Science Education Week for Hour of Code (a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools, and increasing participation by women, and underrepresented minorities). This is a global movement attracting over 100 million students in 180 countries, and is an effort to spark an interest in coding. Hour of Code encourages students of all ages to try their hand at coding for an hour. For the past three years, Microsoft has released Minecraft tutorials, which students can make use of, to learn the basics of coding.
Partnering with the nonprofit sector
Across the Middle East and Africa, the nonprofit sector is playing an integral role in upskilling the region’s youth with the resources they need to be empowered in the digital economy. Through its YouthSpark cash grants, technology and resources, Microsoft helps these organisations to provide digital skills, and computer science education for all.
In keeping with this, Microsoft is partnering with 15 nonprofits, in eight countries in the Middle East and Africa this year, to install the resources and training needed to upskill 1.4 million youth in computer science.
YouthSpark cash grants are awarded to nonprofits with a mission that aligns with Microsoft’s focus on computer science education. The aim is to help increase the number of teachers and youth-serving organisations, which have the capacity to bring digital skills to youth. Over 13,000 educators will receive training to teach digital skills to youth, with the intention that at least 80% of the beneficiaries will represent underprivileged communities, and 50% will be females.
The proof of this approach lies in the nonprofits that have previously received YouthSpark grants, and as a result have been able to introduce new, or develop existing computer science education programmes, training and activities, for the youth they serve. With continued investments, they have also been able to expand these offers to reach a greater number of youth, and inspire excitement about computer science.
Driving CS education policy
The UNDP Egypt’s objective is to support Egypt’s vision for sustainable development for everyone, without exception, by developing innovative, people-centred solutions. The nonprofit was founded in 1953, and first partnered with Microsoft in 2003.
Since 2012, Microsoft Egypt partnered with the UNDP and the Ministry of Youth and Sports to launch the ‘Tawar w 3’ayar’ (develop and change) campaign, as part of the global YouthSpark initiative to upskill trainers and underprivileged youth, by providing access to digital skills, CS training, soft skills, and business training. It also provides continuous support for basic digital literacy training at youth centres, IT clubs, and schools in underdeveloped communities, all while creating awareness, and excitement for the digital era through youth empowerment.
Since the launch of the ‘Tawar w 3’ayar’ campaign, over 1,300,000 youth gained access to educational and employment services, more than 480,000 youth were trained, and over 130,000 available jobs were made available through 400 youth centres, across all Egyptian governorates.
The nonprofit plans to use this year’s grant to tutor more than 1,000 trainers in 500 centres, which will result in 300,000 youth being trained in CS technologies, 30,000 receiving digital literacy training, and 30,000 attending business training, to encourage them to start their own businesses.
Empowering youth to achieve more
In a world where digital skills are fundamental to success in so many environments, leaving people in the dark about this major part of their world amounts to an unacceptable gap in their education.
Microsoft believes technology should be an equalising force in the world—inclusive, not divisive. Therefore, the company is investing its greatest assets—its technology, grants, people, and voice—to advance a more equitable world, where the benefits of technology are accessible to everyone.
For more information on Microsoft’s Digital Skills programme, YouthSpark cash grants, click here.
Khaled Abd El Kader, is the General Manager, Microsoft Egypt