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Youth Involvement in ICT is Key to Regional Integration

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) acknowledges the key roles of both young people and ICT play in the regional integration movement that aims to enhance the standards of living and work across the region. In 2006, at the Twenty-Seventh Meeting of the CARICOM Heads of Government the Conference mandated the establishment of a CARICOM Commission on Youth Development (CCYD) which was given the mission of doing “a full scale analysis of the challenges and opportunities for youth in the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME); and making recommendations to improve their well-being and empowerment.”  
The Commission’s Report entitled “Eye on the Future: Investing in Youth Now for Tomorrow’s Community” outlined the need for Caribbean youth to have increased access to the skills and training in the area of information and communication technology (ICT). It recommended, “That all CARICOM States invest in the development of technological literacy in order to reduce the digital divide among youth and prepare them for work and life in the information society and to take advantage of other new careers and opportunities in the regional and global environments.” (Report of the CARICOM Commission on Youth Development, Eye on the Future: Investing in Youth Now for Tomorrow's Community, page 131)
Pursuant to the “Eye on the Future” Report the CARICOM Secretariat established a Technical Working Group to assist with the development of the CARICOM Youth Development Action Plan (CYDAP) 2012-2017,which charts a path for ensuring young people are granted greater access to meaningful opportunities in all facets of their lives. CYDAP recognizes that  globalisation and rapid developments in technology have rendered the success of the CSME dependent on ready access to a healthy, highly skilled, creative, technologically savvy and competitive work force that is knowledgeable of country, Caribbean history and world affairs; and imbued with a strong Caribbean identity, tolerance and respect for cultural diversity. Approximately sixty-three per cent (63%) of the region’s population is under the age of thirty (30), making young people the main beneficiaries of the CSME over the next 20 years is crucial. 
In reviewing regional issues and challenges the Action Plan acknowledges the effects of globalisation and new technologies which have placed all adolescents and youth at unprecedented risk for social dislocation and altered their dreams and aspirations. Furthermore, among the challenges encountered, new technologies contributed to rapid far-reaching shifts in traditional values and norms. Responding to the aforementioned challenges CYDAP puts forward a series of regional programming guides of which includes the use of ICT as one of the key components to behavior change.
One of the primary CARICOM Youth Development Goals (CYDGS) in CYDAP is Education and Economic Empowerment: Enhanced quality of life and livelihood Opportunities for All Adolescent and Youth. Regionally there has been a move away from more traditional forms of employment such as manual labour to a more skills based work force wherein there exists many opportunities within the ICT sector.   CARICOM member states are encouraged to form strategic partnerships which offer a range of entrepreneurship and career development options in ICT. 
It is also noted that ICTs are a strong supporter of cultural industries and as such countries should incentivize youth business and youth entrepreneurship development of projects that promote the development of creative and cultural industries.  Examples include the increased activities in video production, animation and new media as well as in music and sound recording.
As the Caribbean moves forward towards regional integration it cannot be over emphasized the fundamental roles that both young people and their involvement in ICT will play in this process. It is clear that young people will need increased access to comprehensive skills building and training opportunities as well as encouragement and support to capitalize and fully engage in the ICT sector.  It is through this increased engagement by youth people in the ICT sector that the region is able to make use the creative potential and nearly limitless possibilities that will ultimate improve the economic and social lives of citizens.

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