POETA,1 created by the Trust for the Americas2, aims to foster responsible investment and development in Latin America and the Caribbean. It attempts to reduce poverty among vulnerable groups such as persons with disabilities, at-risk youth and displaced populations, through the provision of skills training.
In the spring of 2005, POETA launched a hemispheric partnership with Microsoft, through its Unlimited Potential Program, to launch technology and job training centers for marginalized persons throughout Latin America. For each POETA center, the Trust works with a local part¬ner to establish the centers and to implement the training in Microsoft applications and Assistive Technologies (AT), which allow people with various disabilities to use a com¬puter more easily. POETA training is holistic in nature, designed to make program partici¬pants ready for employment upon graduation. Training for individuals includes vocational guidance, ICT applications and personal development.
Using ATs, the job centers provide training to persons with disabilities and other marginalized populations in the use of office-related software, such as Excel, Word, PowerPoint and other programs, along with job readiness skills (81 centers in 18 countries are currently open). POETA also provides job-placement assistance and micro-enterprise planning capacity. Outside of business hours, the centers are used by the local community for access to the Internet and other uses.
POETA has been included as one of the good practices contributing to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (target 1, goal 2)3 POETA’s achievements at the beginning of 2010 were:
62 centers established,
72 organizations trained,
27,269 people throughout Latin America and the Caribbean have received direct ICT and job readiness training,
79,434 people have indirectly benefitted from POETA services through training and technology facilities and POETA centers during non-traditional hours.
4,626 people have found employment.4
One of the key findings of the MDG report was that the partnership formed between the public and private sector, academic institutions and national governments “has allowed the program to be successful and sustainable. More than 100 public and private-sector partners are contributing their time, experience, energy and resources to the sustainability of this program.”
According to POETA, their work has evolved in four stages:5
Understanding the role of community telecenters and the empowering impact of AT for persons with disabilities.
Awareness of, and involvement in, social development programmes with the private sector, taking advantage of the new global trends in the philanthropic approach to funding programmes, as well as the nature of social responsibility programs. This ensures that all the work does not only rest with government and NGOs.
Empowering and involving NGOs as partners and implementers. NGOs are involved on the ground in the community, and they understand both the potential of accessible ICT to facilitate training for people with disabilities and also its importance in providing access to the local employment market.
The program also has a role in the context of helping regional and national economies by closing the gap between the requirements of the labour market and the capacity of the workforce to meet these demands.
See case study TVET 99 for an example of a POETA supported center in Mexico City.
2http://www.trustfortheamericas.org/ Trust for the Americas is a non-profit organization within the Organization of the American States (OAS)
3UNDG MDG Good Practices (2010) http://www.undg-policynet.org/?q=node/11
4UNDG MDG Good Practices (2010) Chapter 1 http://www.undg-policynet.org/ext/MDG-Good-Practices/GP_chapter1_poverty.pdf
5Pamela Molina: ICTs as facilitators of social and labor inclusion for people with disabilities http://change.washington.edu/access/workshop_1/