Youth for Technology Foundation Academy

About the Project

This project is one of the 2016 WISE Awards finalists.
Since 2001, Youth for Technology Foundation has partnered with disadvantaged youth and women in developing nations to improve their lives and expand their economic opportunities. YTF equips them with information and communications technology (ICT) skills which empower them to stay in school, transition to viable employment or create jobs through entrepreneurship. The YTF Academy provides training in programming, software design and application development. The curriculum calls on students to engage in creative solution oriented problem solving. All learning at YTF Academy revolves around the context of community and computational thinking using design thinking and software engineering to work on meaningful solutions to community issues. The YTF Academy’s underlying conviction is that not knowing the language of computers will be as challenging as being illiterate or innumerate today. YTF’s strengths are its abilities to assess market demands, collaborate with individuals and communities to design and implement educational and entrepreneurial developmental programs, create networks that expand educational access and business opportunities, and to deliver customized ICT and entrepreneurship training. Through its programs the Youth for Technology Foundation Academy does not only offer disadvantaged young people the foundation necessary to compete with their global peers in the digital age but teach students how to become producers, and not mere consumers, of solutions to their problems, using technology that is relevant to the context.

Context and Issue

Africa has the youngest and fastest growing youth population in the world today. The number of people between ages 15 and 24 is expected to double to 400 million by 2045, and youth under the age of 25 represent 62 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s unemployed population. Simultaneously, there have been transformative developments in Africa’s Information Communications Technology (ICT) sector in the last decade, which is expected to reach $150 billion (USD) by 2016. YTF partners with communities in Africa, listening to their voices and concerns around a specific issue in their community. It then develops measurable programs that empower beneficiaries to learn more about the issue and potentially how to solve it.

Technology cannot be a quick-fix solution to poverty, but ensuring that underserved individuals and communities can access education and tools to improve the quality of their lives is a critical piece of the answer. In the United States, YTF’s programs build educational capacity to increase the economic base of youth and their families in economically disadvantaged communities. In so doing, YTF develops programs that strengthen the science and technology foundation of K-12 youth in these communities while fostering cross-cultural global collaboration with youth in developing countries where YTF works.

In Latin America, 82 million people are living on less than $2.50 per day. Youth unemployment is extremely high, especially among those at the lower end of the income distribution. Since young people are substantial contributors to household income, this affects national living standards. The challenges surrounding education are growing. These include unequal access to schooling; low overall quality in education, especially at the secondary level; and poorly motivated teachers. Because schools can’t offer adequate support, overall educational achievement is low and students often have gaps in the skills necessary for employment. When they do find work, the transition from school to work is difficult.

Solution and Impact

YTF works with the government, academia, the private sector and grassroots organizations, to ensure that under-privileged youth have the opportunity to improve their standard of living. YTF believes it is important to increase the employability of youth while working with the private sector and government to fashion a constructive system that will make it easier to create businesses and jobs amongst young people. YTF charges a modest fee for enrollment in any of the programs at YTF Academy. In situations where participants demonstrate a genuine interest in participating in YTF Academy but have no means to pay the enrolment fee, YTF provides a volunteer scholarship. To qualify, recipients devote 3 to 5 hours per week to a community service project. Students enrolled in one of the YTF Academy programs, “TechCommunities” earn an internship opportunity at a local business upon graduation. YTF has also implemented an “adopt a Tech Student” model. Under this model, local businesses sponsor students who wish to enroll in YTF Academy. In return, the students work as interns at those businesses, giving the businesses the benefit of their knowledge and skills.

When YTF receives requests from other grassroots organizations to replicate its work in other countries, it does so through YTF’s social franchise model. As part of this model, a representative from the organization is invited to YTF’s pioneer Community Technology and Learning Center, the Owerri Digital Village in Nigeria, as an apprentice. Upon returning to their local community, the apprentice forms a local management committee made up of community leaders, opinion leaders, professionals, entrepreneurs, schoolteachers and administration personnel. The committee helps to inform best practices and to target the specific academic needs of youth and women in the community. YTF works with the apprentice and his/her organization to determine the co-funding model given the needs and local constraints involved.

Since the launch of YTF Academy in 2001, 40 percent of program graduates have gone on to be employed by small businesses. They are earning three times the average salary of a non-YTF Academy graduate. Thirty-eight percent have started their own businesses. YTF’s work has inspired the creation and sustenance of over 2,100 small and medium enterprises led by youth and women in Nigeria. YTF has expanded its operations in Uganda, Cameroon, Kenya, and most recently to Colombia in Latin America. Through its programs it wants to impact whole communities, by encouraging youth to move back to or to stay in their rural communities – by making it meaningful for them to do so. It harnesses the enthusiasm, ideas, and the propensity for risk of rural youth; providing personal and career development while introducing relevant technologies; and supporting them in continued relationships as students move into local agricultural and/or entrepreneurial careers.

Future Developments

YTF continues to grow and serve new communities and regions in the countries in which they operate. It is committed to strategically increasing its international footprint and partners with communities to design sustainable pro-poor programs that address real needs of the people. Future plans include continuing to develop corporate and philanthropic partnerships, and continuing community capacity building and collaboration.
April 26, 2016 (last update 04-18-2021)