New regional centre in Tunisia to help youth participate in the knowledge economyUNESCO and Microsoft Corp, in cooperation with the Youth Observatory of the Tunisian Ministry of Youth, today inaugurated the InfoYouth Centre, a regional community technology centre for North Africa, designed to provide youth with access to, and skills training in, the information technologies (IT). The InfoYouth Centre will provide training for IT instructors in more than 200 youth centres across Tunisia, extending its reach to as many as 50,000 young people throughout the region each year. The opening took place during the second phase of the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS), a United Nations conference aimed at developing a global framework to address challenges posed by the information society.
The Tunisian InfoYouth Centre will act as a hub for ten centres in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, enabling them to share best practices and establish joint activities and programmes. One of the first joint activities will be a collaborative project to design a web portal for hundreds of websites across the region. This portal will be maintained jointly by the participating centres and will allow thousands of young people in the region to engage in a cultural dialogue and, in the near future, access training materials.
The InfoYouth Centre will allow underserved and disadvantaged young people to acquire necessary technology skills to enter the workforce. This is particularly important as 50 per cent of the population of Tunisia is under the age of 20 and, according to the International Labour Organization, youth unemployment rates for the Middle East and North Africa are 25.6 per cent (2003), the highest rate of any region in the world.
“We welcome this project for its scope and potential,” said Koïchiro Matsuura, Director General of UNESCO. “Together with Microsoft and the Tunisian Ministry of Youth, which is generously hosting the centre, we are providing the tools, technologies and skills that will allow young people throughout the region to play an active part and make their voice heard in the cultural and economic life of today’s interconnected world. I am confident that this project, and others like it, can have inestimable societal and economic benefits down the road.”
The Tunisian Ministry of Youth will provide much of the infrastructure required for the regional centre, oversee programme management and help mobilize local partnerships with the community to work with the centre.
“Information and communication technology (ICT) is a critical accelerator in the development of the modern, knowledge-based economy,” said Mr Brahim Oueslati, Director Youth Observatory. “Tunisia is determined to be at the forefront of the drive for increased access to technology and skills, and — with the opening of this centre — a new generation of our young people will be equipped to enter the workforce and better compete on a global level.”
Building on a global cooperation agreement signed between UNESCO and Microsoft in November 2004, the InfoYouth Centre underscores the joint commitment to foster digital inclusion.
“November marks the one-year anniversary of our cooperative agreement with UNESCO, and we are very encouraged by our joint achievements to date,” said Jean-Philippe Courtois, President of Microsoft International. “The InfoYouth Centre represents the type of programme that effectively addresses education and development issues in communities everywhere, and what we are capable of delivering in cooperation. Recognizing the positive impact this project will make on the economic and social level, we very much look forward to similar collaborative projects in future.”
UNESCO is providing funding for all the hardware of the InfoYouth Centre, and supports its coordination and promotion alongside other UNESCO youth projects. Microsoft is contributing to the initiative through its Unlimited Potential programme, which provides technology skills training for disadvantaged people throughout the world. As part of this project, Microsoft has secured seed funding for the centre through Unlimited Potential grants, and developed a core curriculum that provides a broad range of training for students of all skill sets, from beginners to those seeking more sophisticated skills such as web design. Microsoft will also provide access to technology and training, technical support for establishing the centre, and support for developing the centre’s partner network.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was founded on 16 November 1945 to promote international cooperation among its Member States in the fields of education, science, culture and communication. UNESCO functions as a laboratory of ideas and standard setter to forge universal agreements on emerging ethical issues, and also serves as a clearinghouse for the dissemination and sharing of information and knowledge, while helping Member States (191 Member States and six Associate Members) to build their human and institutional capacities in diverse fields.
UNESCO’s work focuses on the following five priorities: basic Education For All; water and associated ecosystems; ethics of science and technology, with emphasis on bioethics; promotion of cultural diversity, with special emphasis on tangible and intangible heritage; empowering people through access to information and knowledge, with special emphasis on freedom of expression.
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