I founded Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF) over a decade ago while working in the Corporate Strategy group at Microsoft. I felt a constant thirst to give back and make a difference in the world, no matter how small. I am passionate about technology, in particular the opportunities it affords to people in developing world communities. Born to educators and having been raised in a developing country, I could not help but notice how far behind I was in terms of technology and its application in education from my 'digital peers' in the U.S. I felt compelled to make a difference for others who might otherwise never have the opportunities that I did.
YTF's programs encourage participants to think about issues affecting their communities and the different ways in which tools, like technology, can be applied to solve those issues. YTF Academy strengthens young people's abilities to meet their own subsistence needs and helps prevent vulnerabilities to economic, political and socially unstable environments. In Nigeria, where YTF pioneered the Digital Village movement with the establishment of the Owerri Digital Village, youth contribute an incredible 80 percent to the GDP. As an advocate for community technology, YTF works with local actors, government, academia, private sector, and grassroots organizations to ensure marginalized youth in the developing world have the right opportunities to unlock their potential and improve their standard of living.
YTF's primary market is the 1.7 billion youth, aged 19 to 24, of which 86 percent live in developing countries. We understand that our beneficiaries are not the problem but rather they are part of the solutions we co-develop. Working collaboratively with youth to develop best-fit and needs-driven programs in their communities creates true transformation. This is the core of the work at YTF -- we know that the best way to lead people is by serving them. At YTF, we employ people from the local communities we work in and together we live by the mission of the organization.
Social entrepreneurs are a unique population -- we're driven by passion, not profit. We're not satisfied until we become a part of the change we wish to see, but also understand that change does not happen overnight. We're willing to work on whatever the conviction is for the long haul -- with integrity and authenticity. These values, which acknowledge that you have both potential and shortcomings, are integral to the process of creating change in the world.
I am humbled by my selection as Social Entrepreneur of the Year by the Schwab Foundation, in the knowledge that this recognition is not about my achievements, but rather about the incredible work of the YTF and the inspiring beneficiaries we have served over the last 12 years. I look forward to the opportunity of collaborating with other top leaders from civil society, public, and private sectors to accelerate the inspiring social impact already happening across the globe. Together, we can and we will make a difference.
Njideka U. Harry, Founder and Chief Executive, Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF), Nigeria; Schwab Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2013.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, in recognition of the latter's Social Entrepreneurs Class of 2013. For more than a decade, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship has selected leading models of social innovation from around the world. Today we have 254 from nearly 60 countries, covering renewable energy and sanitation to job training and access to higher education. Follow the Schwab Foundation on Twitter at @schwabfound or nominate a Social Entrepreneur at http://www.schwabfound.org/sf/index.htm. To see all the post in the series, click here.