We recently met a prominent technology entrepreneur who has thrown us a very exciting challenge – How can technology be leveraged to make effective interventions for youth who are not in education, employment or training [NEET]. World Literacy Foundation estimates that more than 796 million people in the world cannot read and write and about 67 million children do not have access to primary school education and another 72 million miss out on secondary school education. The organisation also estimates the cost of illiteracy to the global economy at USD $1.19 trillion. The effects of illiteracy are very similar in developing and developed countries. This includes illiterate people trapped in a cycle of poverty with limited opportunities for employment or income generation and higher chances of poor health, turning to crime and dependence on social welfare or charity (if available).
To get the discussion started, we would like to start with a more fundamental impact of being a NEET youth and some of the creative efforts in this space that we have some across.
Lack of acess to opportunities
As our world gets more digitized, automated and networked, we are systematically creating lack of access to opportunities for the parts of our civilisation that will be left behind. This will promote greater disparity of income and possibly greater social unrest unless subsidised by greater social welfare and transfer of wealth within and across countries. Platforms that are democratising access to opportunities:
– MOOCs [Massive Open Online Courses] like Coursera, Udacity, 2U, edX with 12% of American Universities already present and accessible to anyone with an internet connection globally.
– Skill Builder Websites like skillshare, codeclubworld, codeacademy, lynda, udemy etc
– Blackboard Learn [online learning management systems that help teachers and students access, organise and manage digital learning content both internal and external to the institution] like Blackboard, Clever, Desire2Learn etc
Lack of identity
Work done by lot of social entrepreneurs supported by Asoka and Acumen constantly reiterate how NEETs often fall prey to the situation of non-existence because of lack of an identity. Apart from the huge psychological toll, it makes it much tougher to start a business, access credit or involve in transactions without paying ridiculous rates in the black market. Technology solutions that are tackling this head on:
– Mobile Identity: MoVirtu from London has created a “virtual” SIM card that gives users in developing countries access to multiple numbers from a single device. This enables users that cannot afford a physical phone to get a mobile identity by using mobile phones for rent or per usage from others and will help large groups of individuals in Africa and Asia who earn lower than $2 a day.
– Bank Accounts: Ashray Adhikar Abhiyan has created bank accounts for homeless people in India living under the bridges by using innovative biometric lines using individual fingerprints, thus eliminating barriers for the illiterate. Having bank accounts enables them to have access to financial services and get jobs.
Lack of sense of achievement
As a NEET youth, often times the world seems large, complex and incomprehensible. Added to this sentiment is the feeling that nothing one does matters or can actually change anything at all. Sense of achievement has been documented by psychologists to be one of the strongest drivers for people to make big changes in their lives or go on to build amazing things.
So here is the challenge. Thing along these three dimensions and try to empathise with youth who are NEETs or are in the danger of becoming. How do you see technology enabling such youth to create and build and save them from self-destructing? Please brainstorm and shoot us back your moonshots at firstname.lastname@example.org