ICT is everywhere
Ayşenur Bardak from Manisa and Ragıp Çelik from Çankırı, are only two of the hundreds of volunteers working to give information and communication technology (ICT) trainings to increase computer literacy among people from all walks of life ranging from children to business owners across Turkey.
New Horizons - Although the two youngsters who are barely into their twenties, generally follow recent developments in ICT and share their experience as instructors via an e-mail group, both Ayşenur and Ragıp were happy to attend the National E-Capacity Summit in Ankara in March to meet their fellow instructors in person and take part in sharing common challenges and success stories face-to-face.
At the National E-Capacity Summit held on 9-10 March, the demands of youth councils in 81 cities were conveyed to the relevant organizations and institutions. Summit participants included the Minister of Transportation Binali Yıldırım who explained that ICT is taking its place among Turkey’s top priorities. In his speech, Minister Yıldırım addressed youth as the most important resource in transforming the country into an information society, he said that the Turkey is “very lucky” to have a young population of 32 million and that the youth are responsible for achieving the e-transformation of Turkey.
During the first week of March, E-Capacity week aiming to increase awareness on the contribution of information and communication technologies to development was initiated by the European Commission across Europe. In Turkey, the week was organized by the Youth for Habitat Association, UNDP, the State Planning Organization and Microsoft, who also jointly run the Empowerment of Youth for the E-Transformation of Turkey project. Workshops, technology caravans, ICT camps, school, campus and company visits, e-capacity conferences, career fairs, performances on technology, panels, press conferences, and radio programmes on the impact of ICT on growth and employment and in providing better career opportunities by increasing individual performance were among the various activities which took place in 81 provinces.
At the National E-Capacity Summit, instructors and representatives from youth councils in 81 provinces were able to convey their demands for ensuring Internet access for everyone, gaining expression rights and rights to form online organizations, for the elimination of geographical distances in access to information, for equal access to information for women and men, and for turning disadvantages into opportunities to institutions including the Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of National Education, Ministry of Labor and Social Security, Ministry of Interior, National Employment Organization, and Turksat among others. 30 year old Dinçer Yılmaz who is a voluntary instructor at Empowerment of Youth for the E-Transformation of Turkey and Youth Movement in Informatics projects said that the youth councils requested for people in Turkey who are hungry for information technologies to be granted a more active education, unhindered by bureaucracy and that the youth in rural areas be supported to become more active in information technologies. Yılmaz said the E-Capacity Summit was very beneficial in this respect. Dinçer Yılmaz, has not only provided IT instruction to over 200 people in İstanbul, but he also established his own company with his newfound experience.
The workshops held on the second day of the summit featured interesting activities. At the workshops, the young volunteers were asked several questions and asked to move around the room based on whether they would respond positively or negatively. Responses to a question on whether women should be encouraged to participate in ICT trainings, once again revealed the regional disparities in Turkey. A young woman participating from the Aegean coastal town of Kuşadası reminded her peers that the project aims to provide disadvantaged youth and especially women with ICT training, however, a young man from the southeastern province of Batman said that his attempts at encouraging women are often misunderstood.
The activities at the National E-Capacity Summit were taken back to cities through Local E-Capacity weeks. With the help of local administrators, companies, public organizations and civil society organizations, the importance of capacity in access to information was highlighted in cities across Turkey.
Computer and internet usage is in Turkey is highest among the 16-24 age group with 95%*. Because of the undeniable role of information and communication technologies in realizing Turkey’s important development goals, the UNDP Turkey Office’s 2004 National Human Development report centered around ICT. Developing information and communication technologies has also been one of the country’s top development priorities since 2005.
With 813 volunteers, the Empowerment of Youth for the E-Transformation of Turkey project has contributed to making over 87 thousand young women and men computer literate and partnered with local administrations in establishing Habitat IT Academies in 12 cities. The project which aims to make young women and men more active in e-governance in Turkey is run jointly by UNDP, the State Planning Organization, Youth for Habitat Association and Microsoft. Other ICT projects in Turkey include the Youth Movement in Informatics project run by UNDP, Youth for Habitat Association, CISCO, Istanbul Technical University and Turkey Informatics Foundation (TBV) and Bridging the Digital Divide project, once again run by UNDP, Youth for Habitat Association and Vodafone Turkey foundation aiming to teach computers to 1 million people.