"Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela
Enhancing people's power to harness the benefits of ICT through skills development has long been a key ITU-D priority, spanning a wide range of different training and education initiatives designed to build capacity across all social strata.
The Internet Training Centres Initiative ((ITCI), for example, is helping developing countries build their own pool of 'new economy' professionals who will drive ongoing ICT growth at a local level. Through an innovative deal with Cisco Systems which saw ITU win a Cisco Partnership Award last year, ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau has helped establish 66 ITCs in 56 nations, 20 of which are UN-designated Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
Together, the Centres have already trained over 4,000 graduates, with a further 3,500 students currently enrolled. In addition to helping create a skilled ICT workforce, the programme also actively seeks to overturn traditional gender barriers through an annual intake of 30% female students.
The success of the project lead to a BDT partnership with the European Commission which added another 12 new centres, six of which are based in LDCs. Teaching curricula will be aimed at both beginners and advanced students, focusing on practical subject areas ranging from setting up web-based businesses using open source software (curriculum developed through the project) to basic ICT skills using computers and applications donated by Microsoft via its Unlimited Potential programme.
Promoting ICT excellence
Complementing the ITC initiative, ITU has also contributed US$9 million in seed funding to help set up a number of ICT Centres of Excellence in regions around the world.
Designed to offer continuous education to senior ICT managers in the public and private spheres through face to face as well as distance learning programmes, the Centres serve as regional focal points for professional development, research, and knowledge sharing, as well as providing revenue-generating specialist consultancy services to external clients. Substantial support from multilateral and regional organizations and local businesses has already helped establish ITU Centres of Excellence in East and West Africa, Latin America, the Arab States, Asia-Pacific and Europe/CIS.
Investing in our future
"Developing the skills of the next generation is crucial to sustainable development efforts, particularly in the developing world, where under-25s make up over half the population," says BDT Director Sami al-Basheer al-Morshid. "That's why ITU is actively partnering with leading ICT manufacturers and service providers to fund YES, the ICT Youth Education Scheme."
Since 2003, the programme has awarded more than 50 scholarships to gifted tertiary students in developing countries to enable them to pursue ICT-related studies. In 2007, the ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun TourÃ© and Connect the World Honorary Patron, HRH Sheikha Mayassa Bint Hamad Al Thani of Qatar, launched a campaign to secure at least CHF 2 Million to support some 250 new scholarships in addition to creating 1000 new internship opportunities by 2010. Thanks to new financial contributions from Norway, Spain and Alcatel, ITU has reached 25 per cent of this goal and many more students will benefit as a result.