The "Forum for Designers of the Future", which went online last week, was launched by the wives of three state leaders: our own Cherie Blair, Mrs Kumiko Hashimoto, wife of the prime minister of Japan, and Mrs Kim Dae-Jung, wife of the president of South Korea. The women sent e-mails to one million students at schools in the 25 countries represented at this year's Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) of heads of state.
The site, designed by Leon Ridley and Teresa Yang, both students at London's Goldsmiths' College, poses design challenges in six areas - transport, information and communication, recycling and re-using, community spaces, fashion and identity, and new materials.
Christopher Wade, head of design at the British Council, which is backing the project, hopes that by sharing ideas, drawings, designs and photographs, pupils in many countries will overcome the language barrier, gain a multicultural perspective on design processes and prepare themselves for the global economy of the future.
"We have a shared stake in solving the design challenges of the 21st century, whether in construction, fashion or community spaces. We also have a common interest in preparing the younger generation to understand the importance of those design challenges and equipping them with the creative skills they need," says Mr Wade.
Children in south-east Asia will have a different perspective from their UK counterparts on the form and function of an adventure playground, for example. By swapping ideas, both sets of students could improve their designs, he says.
"There is an extraordinary hunger around the world for finding out about British ideas on design and production. We are excited about the opportunities new technology offers to move away from traditional centres of excellence in universities and find a place for the UK within the online communities new technology is nurturing."
The best work produced on the Web site will be showcased at the next ASEM meeting in Seoul in 2000.
Forum for Designers of the Future: www.designit.org