Digitally Skilling our Youth: Varied Global Approaches

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Workshop 342/98

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[Read more session reports and updates from the 14th Internet Governance Forum]

Digital skills are crucial for ensuring that all young people are part of the digital era, but in spite of this, few policies include the systematic digital inclusion of the young.

Education is localised and customising it for different needs is challenging, said Mr Christopher Yoo (University of Pennsylvania). Since people learn effectively from each other, having safe spaces where youth can learn, share, and exchange knowledge is beneficial for becoming digitally literate.

Ms Lily Botsyoe (Global Shapers Ghana) said that mentorship and digital literacy training helps youth in not just understanding digital issues but in continuing the dialogue on access, digital challenges, and policies. The complexities surrounding digital literacy need to be broken down so the young can assimilate to them easily. Creating safe spaces where practical approaches are available, engages youth to speak up.

Digital skills are not a formal part of the curriculum and are not vetted by governments. Even though we see progress in terms of access to digital technology, this does not fully prepare the young for jobs in information and communications technology (ICT). We need specific bodies that will offer ICT education, teach digital skills, and support the young to participate in policy debates. Simply introducing technology or ICT tools to schools is not a good solution for fostering digital literacy. There has to be a more focussed approach and a systematic digital education plan which teachers can deliver.

Ms Liz Orembo (Kenya ICT Action Network) said that in Kenya, the government is rolling out competence-based curriculum to encourage youth to take up innovative careers. The downside is that infrastructure is not enough. Another problem is that certain children may not have access to digital tools at home, especially those living in rural areas. Instead of forcing the young to move to cities, steps should be taken to equip villages with basic infrastructure so that people can easily acquire skills. The strategy principles should be equity and equal opportunity for all children.

Access is a constant issue and it is important to activate affordable broadband and to facilitate access to information, cybersecurity policies, and any other Internet policies. This would include access to both devices and networks. When people don't have access they don't have the opportunity to experiment with technology. Besides investing in mobile devices, governments should invest in faster Internet.

We need an environment where young people can learn about ICT policy and be innovative. This approach would teach digital skills through real-life situations. Innovation demands awareness of social problems and we need a problem-identification method with measurable impact. Measuring impact would not only include numbers but also how users feel it affects their lives. To measure the long-term impact of access, how it facilitates interactions, and changes in the community, we need to work on the local level.

By Mili Semlani

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