On July 18, the Organization of American States (OAS), through its Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (CITEL for its Spanish original), and Telefónica Educación Digital, announced the winners of the STEM4GOOD AMÉRICAS contest. The contest is part of the “2030 ICT Americas Alliance” promoted by the CITEL and signed by the ECLAC, the OAS, and a series of Telecommunications sector companies including Telefónica. The Alliance was signed during the General Assembly of the OAS in June 2016. The President of the Telefónica Foundation, César Alierta, signed for Telefónica.
Luis Almagro, General Secretary of the OAS, congratulated the winners through a video and encouraged the youth of Latin America to tackle the challenge of digitalization: “This message is for the winning youth of El Salvador, Colombia, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Mexico, but also for the other 4000 who registered in the contest and dared to learn how to make a mobile application that is useful for their lives and the lives of those around them”.
Latin America has one of the youngest populations on the planet, transforming it into one of the most potentially prosperous regions in the world. The region's potential doesn’t just reside in the youth of its population, but also in its capability of taking advantage of the opportunities that the world of today offers them. Digitalization is without a doubt the most important of these opportunities that we can imagine.
And what can be more important than education to take advantage of the digital opportunity? The youth of Latin America deserves for this digital opportunity to be a universal opportunity, that all young people be connected, that all of them have access to cutting-edge education with digital tools available to all of them, and that all of them have, sooner or later, the chance to generate prosperity in their communities. In the end, the development of their capabilities through digital technologies is a smart way to create inclusive growth and to reduce inequalities.
The OECD in its report 2017 Latin American Economic Outlook: Youth, Competencies, and Entrepreneurship identifies strategies and solutions for reactivating the economic growth and social progress of Latin America and the Caribbean. Entrepreneurship and technology are the fundamental pillars and two of the priority areas of investment for building a prosperous future for the youth of Latin America.
STEM4GOOD AMERICAS is an action that is part of the “2030 ICT Americas Alliance” which, through an on-line contest held through the www.stembyme.com portal, seeks to encourage the development of technological tools whose objectives are to contribute to improve some close aspect of the students’ lives, and that also respond to any of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The project is aligned with the objectives of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and seeks to:
- provide Internet access to 1.5 billion people by 2020,
- ensure that every public school in Latin America is connected to the Internet in the next 15 years,
- and strengthen democratic participation in the Americas through ICTs.
After the 4,000 participants in this edition, we can say that Latin America is closer to reaching its goal.
Even though the important thing is that entrepreneurship, digitalization, and technology increasingly become basic pieces of Latin American educational systems, as emphasized by the General Secretary of the OAS, and the high participation confirms this, we mustn't forget the winners of the contest who represent dedication, a job well done, and merit as the fundamental values that are also behind the technological change. Let’s take a look at the winning projects:
In the individual category, the winner was 17-year-old Johan Felipe Báez Maldonado from Colombia for his learning to recycle project. The second prize in this category was awarded to also 17-year-old Erick Rivadeneira from Ecuador for a digital project for the tourism sector called “Touristic Ecuador”. The third prize in this category went to Charles León from Guatemala for his “CulturApp”, an app for attracting to the community those interested in collecting and sharing cultural and ethnic knowledge, and even languages (especially those in danger of disappearing).
In the schools category, Salesianos de Unidad Educativa Fiscomisional “Don Bosco” La Tola from Quito, Ecuador, and San Juan Bosco de Tuluá in Colombia took home the awards. In addition, a special mention was granted to Colegio Maiti from El Salvador for the daring of three 12-year-old girls who, despite not meeting the age requirement, dared to participate in the contest with an app for preventing diseases.
This first edition of STEM4GOOD AMERICA is just a first step for a more prosperous future for all Latin America.