Three years ago at the Forum for the Future, Secretary Clinton announced the Civil Society 2.0 initiative, in Marrakech, Morocco. The program was created to help grassroots organizations around the world increase their digital literacy to share their stories, build their memberships and connect to their community of peers around the world. Today, the TechCamp program has become the cornerstone of this initiative by providing hands-on training to more than 1,200 organizations from 84 countries to date.
Three years after the launch of the Civil Society 2.0 Initiative, we returned to Morocco to host TechCamp Morocco. Focused on youths and employment, this TechCamp brought together 90 civil society leaders from Libya, Egypt, Algeria, and Morocco with 20 Moroccan and international tech experts.
The Middle East and North Africa are experiencing substantial population growth. Today, more than 100 million people (30 percent of the population) in North Africa are between the ages of 15 and 29. Increased numbers of youth has had a very positive effect on the rate of digital literacy in the region, but has also led to a great deal of competition in the work force.
Morocco specifically has one of the lowest employment rates in the MENA region. With nearly 22 percent of men and 38 percent of women facing unemployment in Morocco, civil society organizations dedicated to progress and innovation are essential. Increasing the digital literacy of such organizations will dramatically increase their ability to reach larger audiences and affect positive change.
Over the course of two days, participants worked on ways to leverage free or low-cost digital tools to advance their missions. Interactive training sessions focused on topics from online organizing, fundraising, social media tools, mapping, to the use of mobile technology, video streaming, and more.
One group identified the difficulty of connecting local Moroccan artisans to a global market. To address the problem, they proposed to create a website that would connect craftsmen in need of marketing services with local and international companies who specialize in those areas. While there are many websites like this one that are available in the United States, there is not yet a technology that is widely used in North Africa. By displaying products using video and images in way that is visually appealing, craftsmen would be able to market their products to a larger audience. The group hopes to have the site launched by March 2013.
One NGO from Libya, the Electronic Prosthesis Engineering Team (EPET), was concerned with the growing number of people in their country who are need of prosthetic services but do not have access to the information or facilities. This group aims to use social media and SMS technology to collect data about those in need of services, map the locations of those in need and finally, provide that information to relevant stakeholders. This project will help raise awareness about the issue and hopefully link these communities with NGOs, universities, and health providers.
Another group was concerned with the ability of university students to interact, communicate and influence decision making in their communities. Working with technologist Gavin Marshall, the group decided to use Mxit, an Africa-based mobile platform, to engage students. Working with the platform, their goal is to sign up as many students are possible, allowing them to easily share their ideas for change. Mxit has a large online community and would allow students to instantly connect with a diverse local and international audience. As one participant explained it, "This gives a Moroccan solution to a Moroccan need. Moroccan students are putting the information in and helping to influence decision making in our communities."
These stories are only a few examples of the innovative and inspiring ideas shared at TechCamp Morocco. The passion of each and every person who participated made the event a huge success. As Gavin Marshall from Mxit put it, "It was such a treat to be with like-minded people who want to change the world through technology."
We are confident that the powerful connections made at TechCamp will continue to grow and effect positive change in the months and years ahead. To learn more about TechCamp Morocco, you can view the video, here, and more photos from the event on Flickr. Please stay connected to the program at TechCampGlobal.org.
Editor's Note: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will travel to Morocco, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates, December 11-14. She will co-host the 9th Forum for the Future Ministerial with the Government of Tunisia on December 13.