Enhancing Youth Entrepreneurship Based on ICT Usage Culture in Turkey

22 May 2012

Opening Speech by Shahid Najam
UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Turkey at the
Launch of The Project “Enhancing Youth Entrepreneurship Based on ICT Usage Culture in Turkey”
Ankara

Excellency, Mr. Mehmet Ceylan Deputy Minister of Development,
Mr. Burak Aydin, Country Manager of Intel Turkey,
Mr. Sezai Hazir, Honorary President of Habitat Centre for Governance and Development,
Distinguished media members, guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning,

It is a matter of enormous pleasure and privilege for me to be with you here today to launch a very promising and inspirational initiative for youth, the “Enhancing Youth Entrepreneurship Based on ICT Usage Culture in Turkey” project.

Information and communication technologies (ICT) are transforming the global economy and creating new opportunities for advancement. But access to and use of these technologies remains extremely uneven. This disparity — the so-called “digital divide” — is, in large part, a reflection of deeper social and economic inequalities both between and within countries. Those who cannot access the ICT services become increasingly marginalized within the modern world.

Young people today are growing up with unprecedented ideals and ambitions, driven by new technological affluence and widely bourgeoning ICT infrastructure. We have, as a matter of utmost obligation, to create opportunities for them to give full expression to their talent and realize the future they yearn for. While aiming at facilitating access to ICTs, we need to focus on developing competencies, skills and human capacities to respond to rapid technological progress.

This development challenge is not confined to the developing countries only. The industrial world is also struggling with a yawning gap between groups at different educational and income levels, to the extent of possible exclusion of the entire sectors of society form access to ICT.

This situation is further aggravated by the dramatic increase in the Internet access and the consequent widening digital disparity between the richest and the poorest segments. The privileged groups tend to acquire and access technology more easily and achieve exponential productivity gains compared to the marginalized who fail to capture share of the rapidly growing e-markets, economic innovation and concomitant impetus of growth. ICT indeed affects Human Development in three ways:

a. enhance human capabilities, human creativity and knowledge;

b. increase productivity which generates economic growth; and

c. create large employment possibilities, requiring small amounts of investment.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Turkey has a relatively young population compared to EU countries. Young people aged between 15-24 years number 12 million + and constitute 16.8% of the total population. Compared to the adults 67.7% of the young use computers while 65.8% use internet.

These young men and women represent its next generation. The country has a 15-year window of demographic opportunity to prepare today’s youth for the challenges of 2023 and beyond. By then, about 70% of Turkey’s population will be of working age. This so-called demographic transition, when the population growth rate is declining while the working age population keeps rising is called ‘the demographic window of opportunity’. This episode is considered as one-off ‘opportunity’ in a country’s history.
Young people of today will also form the majority of decision-makers and implementers by the year 2023. Turkey needs therefore to begin now to invest much more intensively in its young people to equip them with advanced skills required by the knowledge economy. Quality education -- equipping people with skills such as an adequate cognitive capacity, critical and creative thinking, computer literacy -- is essential in a fast changing world. It is argued that over the next 20 years, half the world’s professions, as they are currently practiced today, may disappear, with environment, advanced production methods, human resources management, knowledge management and IT becoming key growth areas. Success in a globalizing world will primarily depend upon human creativity, human knowledge, human productivity, human innovation; human skills supported by the new information and communication technologies.

Distinguished Participants

The Vision 2023 articulated by Turkey aims at building, inter alia, an open, competitive, inclusive information society. It is incumbent for Turkey to create an enabling environment that will positively support country’s development agenda. And it is essentially in this spirit that UNDP with its people centered development focus and in conjunction with its distinguished partner Intel, under the leadership of the Ministry of Development, is committed to realizing this vision into reality.

In this Endeavour, we wish to present an alternative option to young people; increase their technology entrepreneurship capabilities; and empower them to explore their potential in entrepreneurship, technology, innovation, research and development, social media, e-commerce etc.

The process of conceptualization, design and implementation of this project has been guided by voluntary peer trainings covering 20 provinces; holistic approach targeting youth; utilization of the local youth platforms established by the Local Agenda 21; and synergizing all initiatives to achieve enhanced impact. We ardently hope that this project will assist youth to actively contribute to the information based socio-economic growth in Turkey and stimulate a healthy competitive and inclusive environment for enhancing Turkey’s competitiveness globally.

For this to happen, however, it is equally important that the voices of youth, their aspirations, their ideas and their potential are fully harnessed and channelized and the obstacles which hold them back are effectively removed. The launch of the “Enhancing Youth Entrepreneurship Based on ICT Usage Culture in Turkey” project, we hope, will unleash a new window of opportunity for the youth to give fuller expression to their potential and talent. I would like to congratulate all the partners for not only developing this major initiative, but also for the innovative and inclusive thinking. Allow me to conclude by a quote from President Franklin D
Roosevelt:

“We cannot always build the future of our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”

I wish you every success with the implementation of this very worthwhile project!