The future belongs to the young. The youth of today are the leaders, entrepreneurs and policy-makers of tomorrow – driving technological, social and economic development globally.
Within this context, there is no doubt that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) will be the main force behind much of that development – creating employment, increasing productivity and improving the quality of life the world over.
ITU recognizes and celebrates the importance of youth and technology as the twin pillars of development.
An integral part of this recognition is the ITU Telecom Young Innovators Competition, held annually within the framework of ITU Telecom World events, the leading platform for debate, networking and knowledge-sharing for the global ICT community.
Now in its third year, the competition offers young people aged 18-25 the chance to demonstrate their digital creativity by submitting their innovative ideas for ICT-based applications and solutions to real-world developmental challenges.
Successful entrants are invited to attend ITU Telecom World in person – an ideal opportunity to showcase their talent and projects before a highly-influential global audience. Finalists also win funding to implement their projects, mentorship, and ongoing support for their ideas, both from industry figures and from a growing body of Young Innovator alumni.
In advance of ITU Telecom World 2012, held in Dubai in October 2012, 12 winning submissions with the greatest social impact and potential for business success were selected out of nearly 400 entries from over 77 countries worldwide.
The submissions ranged from well-researched concepts to working projects with positive preliminary results, and tackled one of eight core issues relating to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals which included; cyber-security; education; empowerment of women; environmental sustainability; healthcare; human rights; transparency; and youth employment.
The 12 winners participated in ITU Telecom World 2012, taking part in workshops on business skills and mentoring sessions, pitching their innovations to investors, and receiving seed funding of up to CHF 10 000, dependent upon the needs laid out in the business plan and a personal interview with a mentor.
The Young Innovators were also referenced throughout the forum debates at the event, where the role of young people in stimulating growth in the industry was a recurrent topic.
Young people are the source of grassroots innovation. They are digital natives born into a world where touchscreens, video on demand and instant messaging are as natural as the (fixed-line) telephone was to previous generations.
Technology is an intrinsic part of their world, not a disruptive factor, and the ever-accelerating pace of change in the ICT sector is in part due to applications, services and content developed for, and by, today’s digital natives.
Therefore, it is important to engage with and listen to young people – and the Young Innovators Competition, with its ongoing mentoring and growing community platform between annual events, is very much part of this process.