Teaching young people to create mobile apps for sustainable development

"Did you know? The next 1 billion new internet connections will be from mobile devices in the hands of young people from developing countries."

The YouthMobile Initiative builds on the experience of many worldwide initiatives that introduce young people to computer science programming (learning-to-code) and problem solving (coding-to-learn). It also seeks to build on experiences targeting young women who are vastly underrepresented in this field. Finally it builds on the consideration that for millions of young people, the smartphone in their pocket is a very powerful computer, it will be their only computer, and they use it for nearly every aspect of their lives: communicating, learning, taking pictures, and playing games.

With this new initiative UNESCO and its partners strive to provide young people with the high-level skills and confidence to develop, promote, and sell locally relevant mobile apps that solve local issues of sustainable development and provide employment.

YouthMobile in Yemen


YouthMobile: Yemeni youth build mobile apps to support peace, humanitarian response

What do coding, mobile applications and peace-building have in common? According to Hanane Abdo, a young programmer from Aden, more than one would think. After taking part in a two-week YouthMobile workshop launched by UNESCO and Internet Society Yemen during she built a mobile application to spread messages of peace and raise awareness on human rights, she says she has gained confidence in herself and in the fact that, through coding, she can be “part of the solution and not the problem” in her home country.

“I believe many problems and crises often start because people aren’t aware of their rights and of what they can do to contribute to building peaceful environments around them. I therefore built an app that focuses on sharing practical steps, messages and tips on human rights, peace and reconciliation and allowing users to share personal messages in favour of the peacebuilding process,” Hanane explained.

As part of its efforts to empower youth to build peace and respond to humanitarian crisis with ICTs, UNESCO partnered with Internet Society Yemen Chapter to launch the YouthMobile project in Yemen. YouthMobile is a project developed by UNESCO in several countries around the world introducing young people to computer science programming (learning-to-code) and problem solving (coding-to-learn) develop mobile apps that solve local issues of sustainable development.

“At a time when Yemen is going through conflict and the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, safe spaces and opportunities need to be created to enable youth to create solutions addressing local needs and develop counter narratives to conflict through creativity and innovation,” Anna Paolini, UNESCO Representative to Yemen said.

40 youth in Yemen took part in the programme launched in Sana’a and Aden and, within two weeks of training, 10 mobile apps on issues such as health, human rights, IDPs integration, first aid tips were created by participating youth using AppInventor, a open-source web application developed by MIT Media Lab to learn mobile apps programming.

Commenting on the initiative, Fahmi Albaheth, President of Internet Society Yemen Chapter said: “The YouthMobile intiative comes at the right time and is the first of its kind in Yemen. In a country where almost 70% of the population have mobile-cellular subscriptions, developing mobile apps for peace-building and to support the humanitarian response represent an easy and relatively fast way to reach people for positive change and impact.

Abdullah Raweh and his group, from Sana'a, created the app “save.life”. “Because of the humanitarian situation, we created an app that serves as a health guide to save lives. The app includes many features such as first aid instructions, how to deal with the difficult cases as well as information and instructions about a number of treatable diseases, including cholera”.

Nada Al-Maktary, who also took part in the workshop in Sana'a, explained that her group developed the app “Displaced” to help her community and particularly internally displaced people (IDPs) by offering them tips and advice about daily life. The app also collects statistics, which will be shared with international NGOs and humanitarian organizations so they can reach out and provide assistance to IDPs.

Taking part in the training in Aden, Osama Noor had observed how difficult it was for patients to easily find the medicines they need. As a result, his group developed an app that serves as a directory classifying all rare medicines and providing information on where and how to find them.

The initiative will continue to be rolled-out in Yemen including through mentoring and peer support. A Facebook page “YouthMobile-Yemen” was therefore created to enable youth to continue developing their apps and promote them online, exchange ideas, and receive peer support.

To find out more about the YouthMobile initiative in Yemen and see photos, follow us the Facebook page “YouthMobile-Yemen”. You can also follow us on @UNESCO_GCCYemen or search #Yemen #YouthMobile on Twitter.

YouthMobile in Qatar

Girls learn mobile apps coding during YouthMobile workshop at QITCOM

UNESCO Doha in collaboration with Arab Women in Computing (ArabWIC) Qatar, Qatar Computing and Research Institute (QCRI) and Qatar National Commission to UNESCO organized a mobile apps development workshop for female middle school students as part of TumuhaTEC Digital Youth Festival, the first event organized by Qatar's Ministry of Transportation and Communications aimed at introducing students aged 8 and above to innovative digital technologies and providing an interactive space for exploration during QITCOM, the country's biggest ICT event on 7 March 2017 in Doha, Qatar.

As part of UNESCO's YouthMobile project and the Organization's mandate to promote youth empowerment, gender equality and knowledge societies, a series of mobile apps development workshops was organized and attended by more than 80 female students aged 12 to 15 years old, including students with special needs, from 7 different schools in the country during QITCOM.

School students were trained on developing mobile applications for sustainable development using AppInventor, a software developed by MIT Media Lab. Throughout the training, students were mentored and guided by tech experts from Arab Women in Computing (ArabWIC) Qatar who were present to help demonstrate and teach mobile app development with App Inventor. Instruction took place in both English and Arabic.

Opportunities were also provided for about 20 additional youth, men and women, who came with their parents or who receive homeschooling to be trained on mobile apps development using AppInventor.

YouthMobile Qatar workshop was part of the "coding" and “girls in tech” zones to welcome and encourage girls to participate in various digital opportunities.

Innovative apps were developed by the students in a short lapse of time after having received mentorship from trainers and provided an opportunity for young women to develop their creativity, ideas and strengthen their skills, a day before the celebration of International Women's Day.

Participating schools included Al Bayan Independent School for Girls, Al Maha Academy for Girls, Lycée Franco-Qatarien Voltaire (Salwa), Al Tamakoon School, Al Ghuwairiya Independent School for Girls, Gulf English School, International School of London.

Participating students will continue to receive mentoring and training over the coming three months to continue developing their mobile apps, through the support of ArabWIC Qatar, QCRI and UNESCO. A competition will be organized at the end of the mentoring period to reward the three best mobile apps.

The TumuhaTEC Digital Youth Festival was held under the patronage of Qatar National Commission to UNESCO.

The event was organized as part of UNESCO’s YouthMobile project and in celebration of International Women’s Day, in cooperation with ArabWIC Qatar, QCRI, Qatar National Commission to UNESCO and with the support of Vodafone Qatar and Qatar University Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

UNESCO Doha was among the key institutions, along with Microsoft, Texas A&M, College of the North Atlantic Qatar, Qatar National Library, to participate in the TumuhaTEC ("Your Aspiration" in Arabic) Digital Youth Festival.

To celebrate girls in tech, UNESCO Doha has also invited two keynote speakers, Fatima Al Kaabi, the UAE's youngest inventor, and Felicia Kamriani, co-author of AppInventor 2: Essentials, to take part in the Digital Youth Festival through inspirational speeches and workshops for students and educators.

Photos of the event can be accessed on our Flickr account.

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