To address the most urgent needs, WFP is testing innovative opportunities as part of the response to the crisis. The 'Tech for Food' project focuses on creating new and sustainable livelihood opportunities for Syrian refugees and vulnerable host communities affected by the crisis, with priorities placed on women and youth.
The social and economic impact of technology is widespread and accelerating. Experts predict that up to 90 percent of the world’s population will be connected to the internet within 10 years. With the internet of things, the digital and physical worlds will soon be merged. These changes herald exciting possibilities, and unique opportunities for humanitarians to help those furthest behind.
Working remotely is fast becoming the norm across many industries, with basic digital skills now a requirement for most jobs. WFP's new Tech for Food project aims to build digital skills that can empower those we serve to find work without being bound to a local market. This also means tapping into a growing global demand for lower-skilled, labour-intensive services such as data entry, data cleaning, image annotation, and photo tagging or editing.
As a first step, Tech for Food provides digital skills through a tailored vocational training programme. Participants receive a six-week introduction to the basics of information technology, which is then followed by six weeks of advanced training. Participants learn how to use Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, and other applications. Those in advanced programs are taught skills for front-end web design or 3D modelling software. In late 2016, WFP conducted a successful pilot training course with 100 refugees in Beirut, Lebanon, with women making up 60 percent of the first group of students. The pilot was conducted in partnership with the American University of Beirut (AUB).
As the program has progressed, WFP has partnered with the private sector to support students to find online work opportunities. Starting this past January, WFP has begun to work with leading technology companies to link course participants with employment projects, including image annotation, image segmentation and data cleaning.