Gaming with a Purpose -- Financial Literacy


Okay, so one thing is clear: Youth are hooked on technology. Computers, smartphones, tablets, social media, video games... the list goes on.

Mostly this connection is talked about with concern. 'Should our children be spending so much time...?' or 'How does technology affect our youngsters?'. And this concern is of course something that always should be taken into account for this subject. We also want to raise a question from another angle: 'Could youth's hook on technology be used for a purpose?'

One of the goals of the Child and Youth Finance Movement is to ensure financial, social, and livelihood education for 100 million children and young people in 100 countries by 2015. And why do we want to do this, you might ask? Well, although the trend of education has been very positive (Girls and boys in developing countries are enrolling in secondary school in greater numbers than ever before), less than 1% of the worlds 2.2 billion children have access to financial education.

We believe that by that empowering and equipping young people with the knowledge and skills to make informed financial and life decisions will have great benefits - both in their own lives, and also for that of their families and communities. Or as one of the Youth Participants from our Africa Regional Meeting put it:

If we do not learn about money and what choices to make, then how can we learn to manage our future?

One step in reaching this goal is to collaborate and align the efforts of education providers all over the world. However, we have discovered various barriers that hinder financial education from achieving its maximum impacts. Among these barriers, the most important ones include:

  1. Shortage of trained local teachers in remote areas
  2. Lack of incentives of children to participate in the learning programs
  3. Failure of financial education curriculums in meeting the needs of children from different cultures and different age groups

Common for all of these barriers is one question, and one of the fundamental challenges in education: How do we make sure we truly engage and motivate the kids to learn in a way that will stay with them for the rest of their lives?

We think that one way of doing this is to meet the youngsters where they are already engaging and committing. Yes, exactly, we are talking about technology. By harnessing the already present integration of technology in the life of child and youth, and adding the purpose of learning to it, we believe that some of the barriers to financial, social, and livelihood education could be lowered.

Barrier 1: Difficulties for children and youth to access education in remote areas
Technologies such as computers, mobile phones and Internet is spreading rapidly across the world. For instance global mobile penetration has witnessed an exponential growth in recent years, with an impressive penetration rate of 79% in the developing world by the end of 2011. A 2013 report from the United Nations explains that mobile broadband will expand greatly in the world during the coming years, particularly in developing countries. And the mobile phone penetration rates is 96%; 128% in developed countries; and 89% in developing countries. Globally, more and more education providers are applying digital tools in education programs. Mobile education is also emerging in many countries. And thus potentially provides a way of reaching children and youth in remote locations that do not have easy access to local teachers.

Barrier 2: Lack of incentive and motivation of the young people to participate
Gaming is something that obviously can engage millions of youth and spread rapidly all across the world. Just take the example of Angry Birds - in 2012 the game hit 1 billion (!) downloads world wide. And this is where we raise the suggestion to combine this incredible power to engage youth, and combine it with a purpose - learning. Studies have shown that when games are used to educate it can potentially change the behavior of young people, as well as have positive impacts on intelligence, such as cognitive flexibility.

Barrier 3: Meeting the needs of children and youth in different ages from different cultures
One of the great strengths of technology is its ability to be easily adaptable and updated from one source, and then spread to all of the connected sources. And without particularly high costs it can be altered and customized based on the needs of the user. So if a foundation for a financial learning game is created, this game can then be changed into various versions based on age and culture of the children and youth using the game.

So, if we want to look at the future and how we can reach the children and youth of today, as well as tomorrow, we need to start paying attention to what is actually engaging children and youth. Technology is moving away from being something exclusively for the children and youth of well-off industrialized countries, to being something that is expanding rapidly to all parts of the world. Combining all of these aspects we believe that mobile games with educational element could potentially become a great complement to traditional financial education. It can be a way to create a fun and interactive way to learn in addition to the financial education taught in schools.

Interested in how companies are designing innovative programs and technologies to raise awareness and skills among children and youth - particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds - on how to achieve financial security? There are still a chance to register for the CYFI & United Nations Global Compact Webinar, on November 7.

Over the coming weeks we have the privilege to blog on behalf of the Child and Youth Finance Movement, here at The Huffington Post. This amazing opportunity is a part of the Skoll Foundation Social Entrepreneur Challenge, where we are participating with our own fundraiser. During the weeks we will talk about the issues we are trying to tackle, including youth unemployment, technology solutions for financial inclusions, the need for Child & Youth Finance in developing countries and more.

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