Digital for Youth makes a real impact

01 February 2023

In October 2022, the Digital For Youth assessment board met at the King Baudouin Foundation. They examined the 24 Dutch-speaking and 14 French-speaking applications submitted in the spring. After a thorough assessment, the decision was taken to award a total of 551 laptops and 16,350 euros to 10 French-speaking and 15 Dutch-speaking projects.

Digital For Youth - one of the many corporate social responsibility initiatives of DNS Belgium – supports sustainable projects with a social impact. With Digital for Youth, we want to promote digital inclusion of vulnerable young people as much as possible. It is the project we submitted to win the title SDG Champion. To earn that title and the accompanying charter, you have to bring about social and societal transition. That is exactly what we are aiming for with

We want to make a difference for as many young people as possible with the laptops we collect.

Organisations were accordingly given the opportunity last spring again to present their project to us and submit a dossier. The board assessed all applications and selected 25 projects that really make an impact.

We would like to showcase two of those projects. The education project 'Young refugees learn digital learning' in Lier supports young refugees and their parents to acquire digital skills. This enables them to move on to mainstream education faster, which is of course beneficial for their future. On the French-speaking side, we are happy to present the Port'Ouverte project in Tournai. In this youth centre, young people get the chance to work with robotics and on computer programming themselves. In the process, they turn from passive digital consumers into active and creative programmers who are eventually able to make their own video games.

Young refugees learn digital learning

The education project of the organisation Mondiale Werken Regio Lier has existed for several years and focuses on learning support for children and young people. This is done at the young people's homes, at school or in the organisation's premises with training modules, support and coaching. They even involve parents and hope to open a reception and meeting facility in the future where young people and their parents can drop by to charge their smartphone or tablet, use the WiFi or print.

With the support of the King Baudouin Foundation, they already launched two great projects in the past that ensured greater inclusion of vulnerable young people. One of those two projects, 'Young refugees learn digital learning', has proved so successful after two years that they now want to expand it with the support of Digital For Youth. 

Young refugees have to deal with a lot of challenges. They have to learn a new language, they live in a family with no or limited income, they have no social network to fall back on and often they have poor digital skills.

Without laptops or digital skills, it is difficult to complete tasks and homework and connect with peers.

Without laptops or digital skills, it is difficult to complete tasks and homework and connect with peers. “We started the 'Young refugees learn digital learning' project because we found that many young refugees did not have a laptop or had to share one with too many others,” people at the organisation explained. 'We also noticed that many were struggling to use the programmes. Distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic made those problems even more apparent.'

The impact of this project is undeniable. The young refugees who have access to a laptop can take lessons - remotely or otherwise – and can do their school assignments. They expand their social network and, thanks to digital education and personal support, they also learn to use computers effectively.

From gamer to junior programmer thanks to Port’Ouverte

The youth centre Port'Ouverte in Tournai has been facilitating robotics workshops for young people for several years now. At the request of the young people themselves, since 2021 they have also been giving workshops to learn programming, and thus they also try to make participants aware of the consequences of automation and its ethical aspect.

The young people who come to Port'Ouverte are often residents of the social housing estates in and around Tournai. They usually have less access to computers or use them only to play games and surf the Internet. Port'Ouverte wants to stimulate young people to push their limits and become real digital creators. As budding programmers, they are introduced to "the other side" of the digital world and gradually learn to create their own websites and video games.

The young people often start the workshops with limited computer skills and gradually become more self-reliant, capable of setting up their own creative project.

At Port'Ouverte, they also attach importance to critical thinking and the ethical aspect of technology, making the young people think more deeply about the possible impact of their (future) creations.

An additional aim of the youth centre is to foster mutual assistance and a sense of belonging among young people. They are encouraged to be each other's first point of contact when they encounter difficulties.

Port'ouverte is thinking of developing their own tools in the future, such as a private chat or online platform for all members of the youth centre and a smartphone application so that they can connect and exchange knowledge.

The popularity of this project keeps on growing, and Port'Ouverte is unfortunately forced to turn down applications continuously. They simply do not have enough computers. More and better ICT equipment will make it possible to continue the workshops in two age groups and to organise more workshops, thereby giving a larger number of young people the chance to develop digitally in this creative, playful and fulfilling way.

With this article, we support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.