Youth + Technology = Transformation
I have been managing IREX’s Tech Age Girls (TAG) project for several years and the transformation that happens in the participants in the short period of 5-6 month continues to inspire me. TAG is a unique project because it uses technology as a means of developing leadership, sense of volunteerism, and confidence in high school girls.
In a recent trip to Kyrgyzstan, I attended TAG’s final conference in Bishkek where 34 of the most hardworking girls that demonstrated community leadership were selected to participate. Not surprisingly, I was blown away once more by the youth’s enthusiasm and fearlessness.
The success of TAG is due to these girls. They are not afraid of touching computers nor are they afraid of breaking them, which often happens with adults and technology. They are curious and bold to experiment with new concepts. That is why the combination of youth and technology are effective tools for this particular age group.
They also do not shy away from sharing their knowledge with their peers and adults. This audacity was once again proven to me during the conference’s closing ceremony, where TAG participants set up a Tech Expo to show the latest technology to guests, including US Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Pamela Spratlen. Just six months ago, most of them haven’t even heard of those tools and now they were suggesting to adults from international and local organizations how it could be applied in their daily life and work.
The rapid progression in technology through the years has changed our program, transforming the participants for the better. In the past, maintaining a network of TAG alumni was a challenge. However, because of social networks like Facebook, TAG alumni can now carry on their experience with each other beyond the end of the project.
The first TAG alumni Facebook page was created in 2010. Initially it was administrated by IREX staff but since the beginning of 2011, I am happy to share that it is fully facilitated by TAG alumni. This further demonstrates the commitment these girls have for one another. Furthermore, it reveals to me that the youth are self sustaining. By providing them with correct guidance and tools, they can transform themselves and their generation.
As this new class wraps up the project, I am confident and comforted that that they will join an existing network that will inspire and support them. Seeing that their fellow alumni are continuing to act as civic leaders will motivate the new TAG participants to do the same.
As for me, I often wonder about how new technologies will alter the way we implement TAG. Technology for development is an every-changing field and I’m convinced that we’ll adapt to these improved tools just like we’ve done in the past; and so will the youth.