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Young people face various barriers to participating effectively in digital policy discussions. Decision makers have a responsibility to involve young people, including those from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds, in meaningful and measurable ways across policy processes.
This was one of the echoing messages from this year’s Youth IGF Summit, hosted by the German Informatics Society and the German government. Inputs from a webinar on IGF themes and youth participation, which took place on 20 November, formed the basis for discussions during the summit. More than 100 young people from over 40 countries formulated Youth Messages which were shared during the summit. The following were some of the messages emphasised by the young participants in Berlin:
- Critical infrastructure is not limited to energy, telecommunications, transport, and manufacturing industries. Emphasising that no one wants their utility companies to suffer cyber-attacks, and that critical infrastructure that affects lives needs to be protected, Youth IGF participants called for a proactive approach of audits and national strategies alongside proper disclosure of vulnerabilities.
- Stakeholders must strive to incorporate universal ethical principles and standards, and develop the general competence framework in digital education.
- Child protection online requires a universal approach. Collaboration among all stakeholders is crucial for designing effective policies by involving parents, healthcare and education professionals, as well as children themselves. The young leaders have joined in this mission to make the Internet safer for all children. They have started doing so by becoming volunteers with various NGOs and participating in the Internet governance processes.
- Youth IGF participants said that net neutrality and unrestricted Internet access must be guaranteed in order to ensure digital inclusion. To achieve this, governments, companies, and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should not control data flows or prioritise services, and must ensure transparency. They said that this was important for a free and open society, especially for the youth as they use the Internet for non-commercial purpose too.
- The young participants demanded new, dynamic cybersecurity strategies with multistakeholder approaches that include transparent, adaptive, and human-oriented policies. As technology evolves, so too much policies. They believe in mediating digital literacy, and feel that policies have to be adaptive to national and global contexts as all communities have diverse needs.
- Human intervention must guide artificial intelligence (AI)-driven decision-making to ensure explainability, inclusivity, privacy, accountability, and the right to appeal, especially in cases where a decision has disruptive personal consequences. Since these principles should not be recited by machines, human intervention is also necessary to train engineers and AI enablers. They also highlighted that these rights should not be jeopardised by automation.
- Youth IGF participants said that facial recognition technology should not be used without transparency and accountability measures. Risks and biases exist, and they need to be known. They also stressed the need for effective regulation and literacy.
- Platform regulation should strike a balance between upholding human rights and encouraging innovation. Regardless of the platforms' purpose, their governance should be multistakeholder, inclusive, transparent, and culturally sensitive.
- Companies should be transparent about their algorithms, data, content, rules, and decision-making to foster trust. Governments should encourage transparency. Users and independent researchers should have easy access to data. Young people are unable to learn about the digital environment if it is not transparent.
- Misinformation has been impacting democracies. Young people are also impacted by practices such as political ads on social media, and micro-targeting, since they are heavy Internet users. Platforms should instate multistakeholder councils to prevent illegitimate data points from micro-targeting for political advertising, with the aim of diminishing the spread of dis-/misinformation.
Youth participants will participate at IGF 2019 discussions through the week. They are also running a special twitter campaign to measure youth participation at the event. They hope to produce a tangible outcome and make the youth a more solid stakeholder in the multistakeholder model.
By Mili Semlani