[Read more session reports and updates from the 14th Internet Governance Forum]
Young people are an important, but often underrepresented part of the Internet governance ecosystem. For years, the Youth Coalition on Internet Governance has raised awareness and empowered young people all over the world. The main conclusion of all speakers was that young people must be effectively integrated into discussions. They should not merely be given a participation quota and a place to speak, but actually be heard and considered in decision-making and other processes, similarly to a stakeholder. And this may be done through the organisation of events to bring young people together, to introduce them properly to Internet governance issues, and then help them create networks and co-operate.
Last year, the coalition supported young people in different funding application processes by helping them write emails, doing market research on sponsorships, sponsoring preparation interviews, and connecting them with Internet governance organisations.
Issues that youth from the African region face in their participation in the IGF were highlighted by Ms Uffa Modey (Co-Founder and Vice President of Digital Grassroots). Lack of knowledge on how to use the Internet in a healthy manner, lack of understanding of IGF challenges and of its openness and decentralisation, and lack of experience in the global IT ecosystem are a few of these issues. On the participation level, they have difficulties obtaining visas to participate in important IG events in some countries. This makes the hosting of regional and local events an imperative to increase the participation of African youth in IG discussions.
The situation for the Southeastern Asian youth, especially those in Indonesia, is better. According to Ms Ellen Kusuma (Representative for the Indonesian Youth IGF), Indonesian youth are very active Internet users and aware of Internet policies, and controversies involving those policies. Individuals are not, however, aware of the Internet governance ecosystem itself. This may lead to some degree of misinformation, privacy violations, and cyber-bullying. Other challenges they face include unequal distribution of infrastructure and reaching and bringing together individuals from diverse backgrounds.
In South Eastern Europe, a common problem is misunderstanding Internet governance. Many people associate it with the government. This raises suspicion and an unwillingness to learn more. Hence, raising awareness is especially important in the region. Mr Marko Paloki (SEEDIG Ambassador) explained that hosting national Youth IGFs could be a way of solving this problem.
The debate in Europe is more advanced, primarily because of YouthDIG, in preparation for EuroDIG. Mr Jan Dohnal (Participant at YouthDIG) explained that they have developed two messages to raise awareness: one about digital ethics and inclusion, and the other about cybersecurity. The inclusion message states that Internet governance processes and policies for youth need to be better communicated so that young people can be better informed and their participation strengthened through multistakeholder dialogue. The second message, about cybersecurity, is concerned with the harmonisation of state approaches and with ethics codes used in designing algorithms. There is a concern about the IoT’s continuous development, with both growing capabilities and threats.
On Germany’s progress, Ms Elisabeth Schauermann (Organiser of the YouthIGF summits) related that the YouthIGF convened a global group of young people, over 120 from over 40 countries, to start a policy development process building on the different initiatives that have taken place - for years in some cases. The goal was to build networks with tangible outcomes to be brought to the IGF. They hosted webinars to discuss four main themes: disability, safety and security, accessibility, and data privacy.
By Pedro Vilela