The best young tech talent in Northern Ireland will be jetting off as VIPs to the U.S. as part of an innovative technology and outreach programme.

Spearheaded by the team behind Digital DNA, Northern Ireland’s largest digital and technology conference, Digital Futures will bring together some of the most inspiring tech leaders to showcase the opportunities for young people within the sector.

With a focus on youth and community engagement, the programme is supported by Young Enterprise NI, Cinemagic, Sentinus and Counter Extremism Project and will aim to develop participants’ entrepreneurial and leadership skills, explore potential career opportunities, promote online safety, as well as encouraging civic activism.

Candidates will also come together again in June to meet world leaders across technology, multimedia, gaming and digital design, before undertaking a hackathon to develop an app.

Finally, teams will pitch for the opportunity to win a VIP trip to the U.S. to meet with some of the world’s most influential technology leaders. Previous winners have had the opportunity to visit the U.S. headquarters of global giants such as Facebook, Google, Twitter and Instagram.

Conor Houston, Head of Engagement for Digital DNA, said it was “incredibly exciting” that the Digital Futures programme would be returning following a successful first year in 2018. He also noted how important it was collaborative efforts amongst business and community organisations to continue.

“Through collaborating with our partners, we are not only bringing the best in the tech and digital world to our young people but also providing them with an opportunity of a lifetime to visit some of the top organisations in the world.

“With a focus on entrepreneurship, creativity and technology, Digital Futures will help empower our young people and that’s something we’re very proud to be involved in,” he said.

New York’s Counter Extremism Project is once again supporting the initiative. David Ibsen, executive director at the international organisation, explains why:

“Digital Futures is a great opportunity to develop some of the brightest talent Northern Ireland has to offer. The Counter Extremism Project is delighted to be able to help provide a platform for the next generation of programmers, designers and coders to improve the online world that connects us all. Now more than ever before, the encouragement of best online practises has become crucial in helping young people to enjoy the benefits of the online sphere, and proactively remove any threats of discrimination and non-inclusion. Through support and direction, these upcoming specialists can help us ensure safety throughout the digital sphere worldwide.”

Joan Burney Keatings MBE, Chief Executive of Cinemagic, said: “Cinemagic is extremely excited to be part of the Digital Futures programme to help motivate, educate and inspire young people, to help them reach their full potential. With support from all the partners, we are proud to give this unique creative opportunity to develop personal and employability skills, and to work with world-class influential leaders which will undoubtedly have a huge positive impact.”

Carol Fitzsimons MBE, Chief Executive of Young Enterprise NI, said: “Young Enterprise believes strongly in the potential of young people and making sure they are given every opportunity to develop skills for success in life. We look forward to partnering on Digital Futures to provide opportunities for the young people involved to be part of this potentially life-changing experience.”

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