Growing a Network of Digital Natives

When talking about the digital generation, youth are the key majority who interact, engage and shape the digital world.

Photo credit: Skokie Public Library via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

The highest number of internet users worldwide are young adults between the ages of 25 -34, who work, socialize and rely on digital literacies.

With the rapid pace of technology, internet is growing in content and value.  Things of importance are taking place online, including e-learning, commerce, social media, and what have you. It is incredible to watch while the world literally becomes one global village. The challenge and concern with the high population global village is that even though billions engage with it daily, only a handful are part of the decision making process that sets the policies governing this great resource.

Youths are grossly underrepresented in the world of internet governance (IG). To change the narrative about youth in IG, several stakeholders -- as the Internet Society (ISOC) -- have taken up initiatives to have youth more actively engaged in internet governance. Hence the birth of ISOC Youth@IGF initiative, which trains dozens of youth on various IG topics to prepare them to engage in multi-stakeholder policy making that govern the internet. Through the program this year, youths from around the world have been trained through a series of online courses about privacy, security, and internet governance in the third cohort of Youth@IGF.

Out of this training, youths from developed as well as developing countries are given a platform that connects them all in one purpose, “shaping the future of the internet”. This group of ISOC youth fellows are the next generation of internet leaders that are taking up grassroots initiatives to ensure an open and inclusive internet. They are definitely not afraid to have their voices heard in the future of the internet.

The experience of the online interactive course during one month had youths from different continents engaging in discussions and group projects geared towards addressing key issues on IG. Out of one great group is where the Digital Grassroots initiative was born, brought together by a team of active ISOC Youth@IGF fellows who have chosen to give new meaning to the term “digital literacies” by evoking awareness on key internet literacies and the importance of inclusive internet governance.

Digital Grassroots is bridging the digital divide through its Internet Literacy Class and creating a network of proactive persons below 35 years old in internet governance to engage them in internet activism. This way, it will build a generation of digital citizens who are aware of their internet rights.

These youth leaders have been educated on internet governance issues via the ISOC platform, and they now continue their education through a series of webinars to prepare them for the actual Internet Governance Forum session in Geneva in December 2017. The trainees are a clear definition of “diversity” -- different professionals are represented such as IT experts, entrepreneurs, lawyers, civil society activists, and others. This great diversity has led to the presence of a well-rounded discussion that boggles the mind of the participants to actively bring to the table their knowledge, expertise, and different experiences for the creation of the next internet leaders.

The ISOC Youth@IGF participants will also be part of the Onsite Collaborative Leadership Exchange that will serve as a pre-IGF event engaging the participants and preparing them for the IGF sessions. Different interesting topics will be discussed, which will bring to the table the concerns that are dear to the hearts of the participants and their diverse communities. This IGF will serve as a platform for engaging different stakeholders. The attending team of youth fellows will greatly represent the voices of young people across the globe.

The benefits are beyond knowledge sharing -- they also involve the chance to network and build great lasting relationships with like-minded people. The IGF will be a great place for this youth to illustrate their desire to bridge digital gaps. 

Digital Grassroots looks forward to the opportunity to share our expanding scope of work, and we can't wait to SEE YOU AT THE IGF!

By Rebecca Ryakitimbo

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