Countries are growing younger than ever. One quarter of the world’s population is made up of adolescents, and more than half of the world is under the age of 30.
Paired with technology and a global trend for social responsibility, the young majority is making headway in addressing youth crises and global issues.
While this demographic change poses potentially destabilizing risks, USAID is working to enable the youth bulge to make positive change in their communities through social innovation.
In Honduras, young people are mapping crime violence along its urban public bus systems. According to USAID, the United Nations and the Honduras National Police tracked 86 homicides per 100,000 people in 2011, the highest in the world. Due to gang violence and armed robbery, busses are ripe for extortion and murder. In June 2012, young Hondurans traveled through Tegucigalpa’s dangerous buses with a global positioning system (GPS) in order to develop blueprints for a public bus map for citizens to follow so they could avoid problematic hotspots. The GPS data was then entered into Google Earth.
This was a part of a USAID-led volunteer program. Members of the national anti-violence youth movement, Movimiento Jovenes contra la Violencia, took part in mapping fifteen of the busiest and most risky bus routes in their area, according to USAID.
The Kyrgyz Republic found USAID support when they experienced significant political and social conflict in 2010. Protests and violence, subsequently, gave way to a cynical youth population.
USAID partnered with Youth of Osh, a nongovernmental, secular organization from Osh, Kyrgyzstan. Youth of Osh leads community development projects in the city. In the October 2011 presidential election, USAID and Youth of Osh applied SMS technology to monitor the elections in more than 70 voting stations. They located approximately 1,300 violations via text. This was a groundbreaking accomplishment in political transparency in the Kyrgyz Republic’s election processes.
USAID continued to support the youth bulge in Haiti. Similarly to Honduras, USAID helped construct a mapping device for the urban St. Marc region. The maps pinpointed post-earthquake refugee spots. Thirty local Haitian youth roamed their streets to draw the blueprints.
USAID’s Frontlines also followed Sri Lanka’s diverse social communities. USAID funded a project that taught Sri Lankan youth how to create and broadcast documentaries about Sri Lanka’s people. Eighteen young reporters practiced in journalism, camera and audio equipment, and production and editing, according to USAID’s Frontlines: Youth & Mobile Technology–September/October 2012 issue. The team developed 45 stories that they called “Development Diaries.” USAID continued to support a second season covering minority voices and post-war issues.
Liberian students enrolled at the Kwame Nkruman University of Science and Technology in Ghana pursued master’s degrees thanks to a USAID program. The program follows a development plan sponsored by the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation Threshold Program, and looks to establish better management of land rights and access.
USAID’s LAUNCH energy forum on November 10-13, 2011, starred Gram Power, an energy tech company based in the United States but servicing India’s poor electricity market. The self-described “micro solution to India’s major energy woes” was co-founded by Yashraj Khaitan and Jacob Dickinson. The men both graduated from UC Berkeley in 2011 with Bachelors in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
The highly selective LAUNCH event led to Gram Power building its first micro-grid installation and electrification in the Khareda Lakshmipura village. They soon brought electricity to 200,000 homes in five years. Gram Power hopes to bring power to 1.4 million people by the end of 2016.
USAID also works in the Philippines, teaching young people at the University of Cebu the prospect of “technopreneurship.” USAID’s Innovative Development through Entrepreneurship Acceleration (IDEA) works with higher education engineering and science programs to engage students on the possibility of bringing their ideas to life.
IDEA offers the Global Entrepreneurship Symposium and Workshop, which teaches young students how to create products, research, understand the global market and work with venture capital, according to Frontlines.
By 2016, IDEA will have garnered more than $2 million, which more than matches the U.S. Government’s $1.5 million investment.
In addition to IDEA, USAID invested $34 million to help higher education in the Philippines. The programs offer study abroad opportunities in the United States and funds for many students to obtain master’s degrees in science and technology.
– Lin Sabones