UNESCO 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.
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.”