Today, there are more adolescents alive on earth than at any other time in history, and this phenomenon has a significant impact on NBU countries. Currently, 60% of Africa’s population, for example, is under the age of 25, and Latin America, Southeast Asia, and India are all experiencing a similar demographic “youth bulge.”

Youth is the driving force behind any economy, and as more of these young people in NBU markets come online, their sheer numbers will certainly influence what the internet will look like for the entire world, more than any generation that’s come before.

That’s why there needs to be additional effort to lower existing barriers to education and ensure they reach their full potential. Collectively, we have a responsibility to equip these young people in NBU markets with access to technology, digital literacy, and the skills and expertise to allow them to enjoy the benefits of education and the internet and contribute to their countries’ economic development.

With the right tools, this young generation will be able to set the pace for members of their communities, becoming informal teachers – even role models – to their friends and family, particularly the older members of their households.

The need for increased emphasis on digital literacy among these populations of young people has been underlined by the global COVID-19 crisis, which has shifted so much of learning, hiring, and employment online. This accelerated shift has created more opportunity in the digital space, but it’s also widening the skills gap for those without adequate internet access. Providing that access is a principal focus of — Google’s philanthropic arm — and together with various partners, we’re taking action at this critical inflection point.

In Latin America, the Distance Learning Fund is supporting the Teach For All network in providing continuity of learning during the pandemic — training and lending needed support to public school teachers as they’ve adopted distance learning strategies. The effort is bolstered by support from local governments as well as a network of public and private sector partnerships.

In Africa,, through Junior Achievement Africa, is giving vulnerable and marginalized young people across Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa the opportunity to acquire in-demand ICT skills by providing grant funding for scholarships and instructional support. Given the acceleration of the digital transformation in Africa, in part caused by the response to the pandemic, the hope is that these young people, with these skills, will be able to find meaningful and challenging job opportunities, earn a living, and enjoy financial freedom.

And in Asia, a USD3.3 million grant from is helping to fund the Go Digital ASEAN initiative — a project launched by The Asia Foundation in partnership with the local nonprofit partners and Association of Southeast Asian Nations Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (ACCMSME). This initiative aims to equip underemployed SMEs, MSMEs and youth in rural and isolated areas, with digital skills and tools. In Vietnam and Indonesia, funded Plan INternational with USD2 million to partner with the ASEAN Foundation to launch Bridges to the Future - a skills training and job-matching assistance pilot program that will help boost employability among vulnerable youths. Again, while the initiative is partly a response to the circumstances created by the COVID-19 crisis, it will go far in helping to close the digital gap and nurture talent to meet the increased technical demand.

Youth is an invaluable natural resource, and right now, NBU markets hold that resource in unprecedented quantities. As we move beyond the COVID-19 crisis, there is a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on that resource for the good of individuals, emerging economies, and the entire globe. We must work to close the widening gap in skills that’s been exacerbated by the migration of goods and services online in response to the pandemic – and the key is to act now.


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