Co-Creating Solutions Using Technology and Innovation with Timorese Youth
October 9, 2022
The emergence of technology and innovation in the 21st century has brought tremendous changes globally and certainly in the twenty-year young nation of Timor-Leste. Timor-Leste has experienced significant development since its independence in 2002. However, young people, particularly in the rural areas are still left behind in terms of access to quality education, health services, and employment opportunities. In order to introduce rural youth to some of the current innovative technology that can be part of creating solutions to some of the many challenges the country is facing, the UNDP Timor-Leste Accelerator Lab forged a partnership with the Technical Vocational School of Don Bosco Fatumaca in Baucau Municipality and conducted a series of trainings that equipped the twelfth-grade students with interdisciplinary skills in technology and innovation.
Hard Skills and Soft Skills
The programme was divided into two essential parts. The first part focused on “hard skills” in technology and innovation, such as Internet of Things (IoT), basic coding and programming, 3D designs with Sketchup tool, 3D printer, design thinking, and usage of Accelerator Lab learning tools (design experimentation, introduction of collective intelligence tool, and solution mapping). The second part consisted of “soft skills”, namely employability skills in digital literacy, leadership, public speaking, project pitching, and basic entrepreneurship.
For practical assignment, students were given various social and environmental problems (e.g. flooding, no access to clean water, bad condition of rural roads, high number of youth unemployment, lack of waste management) to brainstorm, explore and co-design solutions. In addition, students could select any of the four courses (e.g. mechanical production, carpentry, electrical and electronic) that they were studying in the school to apply the knowledge and skills in innovation and technology that the training introduced them.
Shaping the Youth as Change Makers
This is the first time that AccLab Timor-Leste is working with school students to co-create solutions using technology and innovation. In the programme, students were encouraged to utilize the Accelerator Lab learning tools to boost their creative thinking and problem-solving skills. Despite the short duration of the training, the students gained sufficient skills in IoT and 3D design to solve complex environmental problems and social issues. They applied their newly gained knowledge and skills from this programme and designed prototypes of a traffic light system, an automatic curtain wall, a smart gate that opens automatically, an automatic light bulb switch using voice controller, a fire extinguisher alarm, flood early warning system, an automatic switch for lighting using motion sensor and an automatic waste bin also using motion sensor to mention a few examples. One of the student representatives, Mr. Celcio Ronald Gusmão Cardoso, shared his reflection with us about this programme saying that, “What students learned with UNDP Accelerator Lab team is very crucial in the 21st century. The knowledge should be disseminated to other schools too”.
Co-creating solutions using technology and innovation is a great way of initiating changes, transforming mindsets, and tackling challenges Timor-Leste faces. Co-creating with Timorese youth through this small initiative was very important for our AccLab to demonstrate that when right support, guidance and inputs are provided to the Timorese youth, they can become part of the solutions. The importance of placing youth at the center of a change process is clear, and when it is enabled through innovation, technology and appropriate guidance, their potential, motivation and energy can be unleashed for constructive and creative solutions. UNDP Timor-Leste Accelerator Lab will continue to engage and empower Timorese youth through innovation, technology and digital transformation in pursuit of generating simple, innovative, and sustainable solutions for a better future for the young generations in Timor-Leste.