Empowered youth for inclusive digital futures

Empowered youth for inclusive digital futures
Today’s decision makers increasingly recognize an important role for young people in helping solve the most formidable challenges now facing humanity. This is especially true in the mobilization of digital technologies to ensure a prosperous, equitable, sustainable future.

Today’s decision makers increasingly recognize an important role for young people in helping solve the most formidable challenges now facing humanity. This is especially true in the mobilization of digital technologies to ensure a prosperous, equitable, sustainable future.
“Young people will inherit a world that’s been dramatically reshaped by today’s technological advances,” says , Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). “Engaging in a dialogue of equals is going to help each generation understand the challenges that the other faces.”
Youth inclusion in planning and decision making, she adds, should “ensure that digital remains a positive and catalytic force in building the world that we want.”

Resource empowerment

Youth are often called “digital natives” or natural adopters of technology. Yet, 2.2 billion children and young people under the age of 25 lack an Internet connection at home, points out United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth.
 “ Without having the resources to get connected, young people will not be able to take part in discussions around digital development, developing digital solutions, pursuing opportunities online, and expanding their knowledge and skills,” she says.
According to ITU (Weekly Advice for Young Entrepreneurs – a platform helping young people build careers in technology) and failing to prioritize digital resources and access “will have rippling effects for generations to come.”
 a member of the Youth Rights experts group at the European Youth Forum calls for more attention to youth who are still offline, and for recognizing their access to the Internet and digital technologies as a right.
he said, “One of the most incredible aspects of technology is that it can equalize access to opportunity and wealth. But even to this day, many tech organizations are not inclusive of the needs of racial minorities and those from low-income communities.”
Many governments are working with the private sector to avoid marginalizing younger citizens.
In St. Kitts and Nevis, for example, the government has partnered with telecom companies to provide free Internet access to youth across the island state’s 17 community centres, which have provided crucial connectivity those without Internet connections at home during the pandemic.
“Within our national ICT centres, we established innovation hubs,” explains, the country’s Minister of Health, ICT, Entertainment, Entrepreneurship and Talent Development. “We see them as cradles of digital creativity and position them to deliver training in emerging and ubiquitous digital tools.”
Many youth organizations welcome the idea of innovation and community hubs as enablers of digital inclusion, where youth get connected first.

Equipped for the future

Securing access to the Internet alone is not sufficient to equip youth for a future in which digital technologies will underpin every industry and society. Young people need to develop the skills and know-how to navigate and leverage the digital world.
The most overlooked element of empowering youth – though arguably just as important – is involving them in decision-making processes.
Technology holds the promise of unlimited potential for young people, he notes. The question for today’s decision makers is whether they will seize the opportunity to connect children and youth who currently remain offline, giving the next generation access to world-class digital learning and skills.

Aug 28, 2021 09:12

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