The ASEAN Digital Innovation Programme aims to reach 46,000 underserved youth in seven ASEAN countries and equip them with digital skills.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has joined forces with the ASEAN Foundation to launch the Digital Innovation Programme for youths in Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam aged 15 to 35.

To achieve their objective, local partners from each of the seven countries will be brought in to deliver capacity building workshops for over 500 educators by harnessing a specifically developed learning module.

The company added that all 10 ASEAN Member States have intensified their efforts to develop and empower youth under the realisation that the future of ASEAN is in the hands of its youth as they become ASEAN’s future leaders and catalysts for economic, social and cultural development.

This new initiative came about when the first ASEAN Youth Development Index conducted in 2016 revealed a worrying trend that the youth unemployment ratio of the region had reached an alarming figure of 6.4 over the 2011 to 2015 period, meaning that youth were 6.4 times more likely to be unemployed than their adult counterparts in the labour force.

“At Microsoft, we strongly believe that technology can be a force for social and economic inclusion,” said Yvonne Thomas, Director of the Global Digital Skills programme, Microsoft Philanthropies.

“By equipping young people with digital skills, we’re increasing their economic opportunities while also addressing the talent shortage faced by industries as they digitally transform.

“With the ASEAN Digital Innovation Programme, we are committed to building the capacity of the ASEAN Foundation and its local training partners to equip underserved youth – in particular young women – for the future of work.

“Through high-quality and equitable computer science education, youth will develop creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills – essential attributes for them to thrive across all sectors.”

A regional blog-making competition for youth from 10 ASEAN Member States will take place at the end of the year, and the company have said that there will also be an integrated website, which will be launched in April this year.

The website will serve as the foremost e-learning platform for underserved youth in ASEAN to deepen their digital skills, and as medium to spread ASEAN’s awareness among youth, according to Microsoft.

“We’re happy to announce that the ASEAN Foundation has joined hands with Microsoft in implementing a regional programme that aims to equip ASEAN youth with digital skills that are critically necessary in the current day and age,” said Elaine Tan, the Executive Director of ASEAN Foundation.

“We hope that this partnership will also highlight a meaningful engagement and collaboration that can take place among different stakeholders to develop a regional initiative by working together in achieving sustainable development that can bring tangible impact to the ASEAN Community.”

Similarly, last week IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced that it will be conducting several collaborations across India that will advance the skills and careers of more than 200,000 female students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields.