What do you get when you marry some really cool people and Information Technology (I.T.)? Well, you get a really cool company which uses I.T. to disrupt all sorts of so-called ‘norms’. I.T. is the backbone of what Lianne McNaughton uses to empower, enable, and engage youth through the digital age. Youth Can Do IT (YCDI) is an impactful, no-nonsense organization that gives youth the tools they need to be creators and not just consumers.
Through mentorship workshops, varied programmes and summer camps, young Jamaicans are introduced to I.T. to open their minds to the world of possibilities. Once everyone surpasses the ‘fear of learning’ barrier, the next step is to demystify the notion that I.T. is hard. Remember or research the old ‘give a man a fish…’ parable. Lianne keeps her ‘hands dirty’ and heart smiling with each success story she sees shape right in front of her. These gifts fuel Lianne and keep her jumping out of bed every day.
We met Lianne many years ago at a forum about the concept of BlockChain technology. We were blown away by her ability to simplify such a complex topic. Owing to that reality, the impossible mountain became a simple anthill.
YCDI, the social enterprise, has put its focus squarely on giving exposure and access to young Jamaicans. However, the only prerequisite is that you must have an open mind. You must want to imagine the impossible or see more potential in what already exists. Once you can handle doing those things, you are a sure win for innovation.
Because of Lianne’s leadership, YCDI has shown amazing growth. Through school tours, they have engaged over one thousand students. Other ways that they share I.T knowledge include summer camps, ambassador and women in IT mentorship programmes. YCDI isn’t just an ordinary social enterprise; through training, as much as 10 youth have received jobs based on the skillset they earned at YCDI. Another great note is that two YCDI graduates have started IT-based businesses themselves. The recent Jamaican victory in the global hackathon competition staged in Switzerland and facilitated by coach Lianne. Lianne’s passion shines from her eyes. Each time she talks about the progress of the youth who interact with YCDI, her eyes light up like a new stadium light bulb.
Now, with the backing of Innovate 10X, the NCB Foundation and eLearning Ja, YCDI has moved up their offering to give youth a full day of digital learning, at no cost. From programming robots to building websites, youth ignite as they learn more about coding. During our visit, we viewed two projects which were built by aspiring young ones.
YCDI aims to be the tech-talent pipeline of the Caribbean. As they grow the talent from University ambassador programmes to their YCDI pep talks at the primary school level, the focus is to upskill the students enough to either become employable or become entrepreneurs. For the younger students, the aim is to have them become curious about the possibilities of Information Technology.
We sat with Lianne recently to get an understanding of the company and what she believes about Jamaica and our impact on the world through Tech. Watch the video below.