Discussion
15 Nov - 12 Dec 2021

How do youth lead on technology for democracy?

SparkBlue • 8 November 2021
photo

Welcome! Please join and add your voice. This is a youth consultation, are you a young person? Youth is understood in accordance with national age-definitions and below 35 years of age.


The youth consultation on technology for democracy will provide a space for young people to exchange, connect and spark ideas within the overall thematic areas,

  • The use of digital technologies in order to enhance democratic institutions, processes and practice, including through support to participatory democratic mechanisms and citizen engagement in formal governance processes;
  • Opportunities and challenges for youth engagement towards strengthening democratic norms in the digital era.

Young people’s innovative ideas and bold action is needed in supporting democratic practices and fostering inclusive societies. This consultation  seeks to generate new, youth-led ideas and identify tangible solutions on how digital technologies can support democratic practice and brings the insights to the Technology for Democracy Initiative including as input to research and programming and through two conferences led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, where it will be used as input to a multi-stakeholder push for protecting and promoting democracy and human rights and raising commitments to strengthening digital democracy.
 

Please answer as many as of the following questions as you like. Please do refer to the question numbers in your comment:
 

DIGITAL EMPOWERMENT

  1. What are your experiences in expressing your needs and aspirations to local institutions in the digital sphere and through online channels?
     
  2. How do you claim a space in decision-making processes in the digital sphere?
     
  3. How do you use technology to hold accountable decision-makers for advocating for peaceful, just and inclusive societies?

DIGITAL INCLUSIVITY

  1. Think of a time when you were part of an online consultation/meeting/workshop, were there as many women as men? And do you think gender representation is different in the digital sphere compared to offline engagement?
     
  2. How can technology help in tackling the digital divide and increase participation, in particular of those at risk of being left behind? 

DIGITAL FREEDOM

  1. In your opinion, what does a safe, gender-responsive and enabling digital space look like?
     
  2. How freely can you use technology to contribute to transparency, enhance access to information, support content creation, counter misinformation and foster tolerance?
     
  3. What are your priorities for making digital spaces safe for youth and addressing challenges of breach of privacy, surveillance and harassment?

 

Comments (23)

Farida Nabourema Moderator

Dear all,

 

I would like to thank you very much for your contributions this week. We are grateful for your comments that address the issues youths are facing in the digital space and most importantly for the recommendations you provided on how to solve these problems.

Please find below, a summary of your various recommendations during Week 1 and I look forward to reading more contributions in the coming weeks. Also, do not forget to invite the youths in your network to join us in this consultation as their voices and experiences are valuable to this initiative.

 

Recommendations:

 

  1. Youth Leadership
  • There’s a need to mobilize a youth-centered leadership around digital technology at the UN level
  • The UN must establish a youth task force aimed at enabling more structures for young people not only to innovate but also govern the terms of their innovation. 
  • The task force could be about implementing co-leadership on internet governance and digital cooperation pulling threads from the SDGs, the UN Business and Human Rights frameworks as well as the innovation portfolio 
  • The task force needs to work closely with the Internet Governance Forum and bodies like UNIDO and WIPO to discuss and implement policies and protect ideas when it comes to open source as well as ensuring protection of ideas that emanate from the global south.
  • Increase youth participation in governmental programs and community development.
  • Youths should be assigned bigger roles in development to advance a youth-led education model.
  1. Education
  • Increase tech for democracy educational program for youths to ensure a gradual increase of democratic practices.
  • Educate youths on safe digital practices and the consequences of online abuse
  • Recognize the gender-targeted abuse women face online as a form of gender-based violence.
  1. Access to Technology
  • Provide affordable technology access to youths to improve social wellbeing and promote economic growth.
  • Create programs that reduce the cost of access to technology to young people and provide them with incentives to use technology to advance democracy
  • The demographics of the communities must be considered when developing programs to increase youths’ access to technology to reduce inequality and promote equity.
  • Make algorithm and the data feeding machine learning less biased and less discriminatory.
  • Develop technologies that make it easier for young people to demand accountability from elected officials.
  1. Governance

 

  • Change abusive and invasive practices relating to digital surveillance, internet shutdown and cybercrime laws, including if decided by governments.
  • Enact laws that regulate how platforms deal with disinformation, harassment, racism, sexism, and other forms of violence online.
  • Implement code of conducts from tech companies to sanction the creation of technologies that are used to abuse human rights
  • Appoint a U.N special rapporteur on freedom of internet and access to information

 

Syed Ommer Amer Moderator

Hello everyone,

Super excited to connect with each and every one of you. Together, we all bring in fresh perspectives from all across the world and highlight grassroot problems through actionable solutions. What binds us together is our will to hold people in power accountable.

Just systems are the foundations of a great society. We are super excited to learn how you have used technology to empower, include and provide freedom of expressions to your local communities.

We look forward to seeing your contributions and learn about youth-led ideas and tangible solutions on how digital technologies can support democratic practice.

Let's co-create some amazing solutions.

 

Marwa

Hello Syed, At the UN level we need to mobilize youth-centered leadership around digital technologies in particular. The appointment of the envoy on technology is highly commendable, and I think it is time to establish a youth task force on the impact of digital technologies. 

Syed Ommer Amer Moderator

[~57075] I see. What do you think should be the role of the youth task force? Do you have any governing structure in mind? I would love to hear your ideas.

Marwa

[~119135] The role of the task force would ideally be about implementing co-leadership on internet governance and digital cooperation. Pulling threads from the SDGs, the UN Business and Human Rights framework as well as the innovation portfolio. The TF would be instrumental in leveraging on existing governmental buy-in to enable more structures for young people not only to innovate (per se) but also to govern the terms of their innovation. 

Thomas Steiner

[~57075] & Syed: Not only should the task force pull threads from different areas Marwa mentioned. It also would need to work closely with the Internet Governance Forum to discuss and implement policies (but isn't the IGF youth initiative something like that?), the UNIDO and/or International Telecommunication Union for enhancing access to the internet, and maybe also with the WIPO to protect ideas when it comes to open source or giving ideas from the global south more protection.

Syed Ommer Amer Moderator

[~119224] I have seen local heads of police and law enforcement agencies in Pakistan using twitter and social handles where people would tag them to report an incident and they would take instant action. It has been quite effective.

Apart from that we have Safe Cities Project deployed in metropolitan cities where cameras are installed and software are built through which if someone breaks a signal, they get an automated challan posted at their doorstep with image as a proof. It is super cool. Initially, there was a lot of paperwork. However, now I have seen police carrying tablets in Lahore where they simply enter the cnic details to verify the identity of any suspect. I personally went through this experience when I went out late night to buy something. The police stopped me and verified me using technology. I was in awe.

I strongly feel that embracing tech has brought lot of accountability in Pakistan. It will take time for things to go back to 100% normal state but at least for now, I would say that we have improved like 30-40% which is quite a big leap.

Another, organization that I would like to highlight here is ACCOUNTABILITY LAB. I have been a part of their incubation program in Pakistan office. Their initiatives to improve democracy through accountability of the people in power is quite commendable. They work in three verticles.

  • Advocacy: Generating content and organizing event
  • Training: Hands-on and in-kind support to local enterprises to scale their brands (in niche of accountability)
  • Awards: Honoring honest government officials for their services

In particular, the Integrity Icon is something which I personally love. It's a great case study to see how to improve democracy through naming and faming instead of shaming people.

Are there any such initiatives in your countries happening? I would love to know more about them.

Thomas Steiner

[~119135] Is face recognition built in in the cameras or in the tablets the police have?
And are there any rules or regulations in place to avoid abuse of those technologies?

I'm thinking about the situation in Afghanistan where the Taliban got into possession of biometric databases established by the western countries. And unfortunately there is the possibility for abuse.

Farida Nabourema Moderator

Thank you dear Syed for the welcome message. It is my honor to join you in co-moderating this week’s conversation. 
Dear all, we are truly excited about this engagement and are looking forward to reading your perspectives on how technology could contribute to advancing democracy and ways we “youths” can advance digital inclusivity and accountability. 
 

Thomas Steiner

Hi everyone,

Thanks for the opportunity to take part in the discussion in such an important topic! I'll try to give some insights from Germany, knowing that some of the problems/challenges could be more or less "first world problems".

1) Getting in contact with politicians and representatives is kind of easy through mail or social media accounts. It's getting more difficult when it comes to public authorities. You still have to submit your suggestions or applications on paper and you can't really follow the process once submitted and have to wait until an answer comes. In Munich, the mayor and city council are trying to change that step by step now, but it is still not very citizen friendly. An interesting tool called "Consul", which was developed by the NGO 'Mehr Demokratie' (More Democracy), would give citizen a rather easy access for participation in public discussion (unfortunately, the website is only in German).

3) There are several NGO, which try to hold representatives accountable. 'Abgeordnetenwatch' for example provides you with a database, where you can see how every representatives in the parliaments had voted in every ballot. And you can directly contact the representatives via that platform. But otherwise the possibilities (except from mail and social media) are limited.

4) In my work environment, I had the feeling that women attended in online workshops/meetings more often than in real life, especially when they were in the afternoon or evening. This could have something to do with the fact that women in Germany are often still responsible for care work in the old understanding of their role, and that this is easier to manage with online events. But this does not necessarily mean that they also engage actively.

5) One thing is to make algorithms and the available data, which feeds machine learning, less biased and discriminative. This goes beyond the digtial world, e.g., when you look into the health care sector and its studies.
Humans are somehow designed to be more responsive to information and beliefs which supports their own views. To crack that up a little, news feed should not only consist of contents which reproduces their views (and maybe radicalizes them), but of some portion of other views and information (60% own views and 40% others).

6) RIght now platforms profit from spreading misinformation or provocative content as they get more attention. They still lack behind their promises to work on that, especially on sexism, violence and misinformation. this business model could not be sustainble by all means. It is necessary to implement regulations and/or laws how those platforms should be built in a just way. And the responsibility what is punishable and what not should not be entirely in the hands of businesses but in the hands of the judiciary (from an democratic point of view).

7) The first three can be used freely in Germany. The last two are more restricted as you not always can compete with the algorithms from the big tech companies.

8) Education of children and youth how to use digital technologies properly. Knowing what consequences and impacts their actions in the digital sphere have for themselves, but also for others, it could change a lot when it comes to harassement and sexism.
The GDPR was a big improvement in the EU when it comes to privacy. This could be a role model for other countries or supranational organizations as well.
With new technology surveillance gets much easier, which is especially a threat in autocratic regimes, but also in democracies. An implementation of some sort of code of conduct for software developers and businesses (which is checked by independend organizations) is necessary to prevent similar cases like NSO Group and their spyware Pegasus.
 

Farida Nabourema Moderator

Thomas thank for your elaborate response and for your detailed recommendations and examples on how to increase digital inclusivity. 

Syed Ommer Amer Moderator

This is interesting. In Pakistan, which is developing country, we have a mobile application named PAKISTAN CITIZENS PORTAL through which citizens can file complaints and government officials are made accountable. We can track the application status and the action taken on the application. It's a fascinating tool.

Farida Nabourema Moderator

The Togolese Civil Society launched a similar application in 2020 called XONAM to allow citizens report human rights atrocities especially police brutality which heightened during the pandemic lockdowns.

 

Bigambia

Hi to Everyone. Happy to be part of this consultation and the opportunity given to us to raise m'y voice. 

 

Karim habib

Hello Everyone, excited to be a part of this discussion,

From my point of view, I can say that in order to ensure a gradually increasing democratic practices in today's communities, a big efforts needs to be given in the educational part, Having a developed technologies in the " already developed " societies will not help as quick as doubling the brains pushing towards democratic practices. years ago a focusing on improving knowledge about Human rights, global peace and the environmental issues was noticeable, and efforts started to be more noticeable when light was focused more on some African countries, some un educated societies in south America and poor Asian countries as example, so from my point of view here is where the technology education focusing in future should to see a higher pace of steps towards democratic practices through technology. 

I can see that more trust and bigger roles should be assigned to youth in the development process, Today's technology are more targeting youth, and what we aim of "tech education for democracy"  can be reached by well educated youth, so a youth-youth education will be the perfect model as a solution. and what I mean here by "more trust and bigger roles" is a youth participation in governmental programs, and communities development actions led by united nations and the responsible NGOs.

Jessica Li

Greetings, this is Jessica Li from the United States. It is a pleasure to attend the discussion forum. Please see the below:

How to equally and equitably broaden access is an important consideration. Viewed from a global perspective, achieving this while considering the economic and social factors is challenging. Robust and affordable technological access is a global contributor to improving social wellbeing, promoting economic growth, and enhancing workforce development and human capital. 

The global pandemic has changed ways of interaction and operation. Virtual meetings, conferences, and events are more prevalent than in-person attendance. When its access is increased to serve more people, while making it affordable, technology can improve communications at various levels, one of which includes the global level. While I think about whether the global pandemic increases interdependence, or localization dominates, I know broadening access would ease communications and lead to overall increase in public welfare. 

When I went to school, my family received a discounted internet service from a telecommunications company. The program allowed my family to get the internet, making the service affordable. Through the program, we also purchased a laptop at a discounted price. We also received discounted phone service through the Lifeline Program. Programs, such as the Lifeline Program and the Federal Government’s Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program, which would then be replaced by the Affordable Connectivity Program, can help families and households to get affordable access to broadband and other services.  

The programs create a meaningful impact at the individual, household, and market levels. Other proposals can be that individuals and seniors, especially those in need, can also benefit from affordable access to technology. Broadening access to include phone coverage, and this can be cellular phones, can further expand the benefits to greater scale. Community demographics and characteristics should be considered when implementing these programs. For example, people may come from underrepresented, underserved, or marginalized communities. How to ensure equitable access to serve these communities, while also taking into account people who face financial hardship, can be considered while planning for the programs. 

 

Farida Nabourema Moderator

In 2014, I initiated a digital campaign to call for terms limits in Togo by sharing the contact information of our members of parliament on my blog and social media, calling on Togolese youths to call and inform them that we wish for them to reinstate terms limit in our constitution which was voted in a referendum in 1992.

That action was the very first of its kind in a country like Togo in which we young citizens used social media to directly participate in governance. Unfortunately, this action backfired with threats and abuses by government officials and state representatives as they completely reject the possibility of citizens questioning their political decisions or even daring to ask for change.
Through this small story, I would like to share that youth participation in politics and the use of technology to advance democracy are luxuries that citizens like myself living under authoritarian governments cannot afford.

To make matters worse, our government is among one of the very first to purchase Pegasus on the continent, a spyware used to track dissidents, journalists, and human rights defenders in Togo. Shutting down the internet whenever citizens announce protests is also a common practice in Togo and in 2019, a law was voted to punish citizens with up to 5 years imprisonment for criticizing government officials online.

One can no longer ignore the rise of digital authoritarianism and how technology has empowered governments far beyond human imagination and that is the biggest threat to democracy today.

There is a need for the U.N to appoint a special rapporteur on freedom of the internet and access to information as it has become one of the most violated rights today. It is important to lay out clear guidelines on how the body could sanction abusive and invasive digital surveillance, digital repression, and increase protection for cyber-activists.

In addition, the gender-targeted abuse that women face in the digital space must also be addressed and recognized as gender-based violence as research has shown that women activists and politicians face far more abuse in the digital space than their male counterparts.

Finally, one must increase sanctions against tech companies that manufacture digital weapons used to abuse human rights.  

Saripalli Suryanarayana

I am only a guide[Take or leave-because i am elderly-what i saw during last 50 and odd years-i am just putting as a background-please do not get guided only,have more of reason].The importance of social leaders more transperent using the MEDIA technologies may have to be thought even by the developing countries.2.Artificial intelligence may change its present form,and may help society,but may go aganist personal liberties.[Reasons for using such for governance could be many].

3.People skill sets have to be changed ,say from automobiles to the e-vehicles etc,and latter"Uranium driven atomic energy etc.

4.Lives in the present carbon generating buildings may change.

Sophia El Bahja Moderator

Hello everyone,

Thank you all for your inputs and thank you [~119155]  and [~119135]  for your presence as co-moderators.

I’m Sophia El Bahja and I’ll be co-moderating the discussion the next few days. I’m delighted to be part of this and able to connect and exchange with you all.

After some fruitful insights we are looking forward to hearing more from you concerning the use of digital technologies in order to enhance democratic institutions, processes and practice.

Try to answer the questions above using the numbers in your comment. Use the language you most feel comfortable with (there’s translation - top right corner). Your ideas are important in supporting democratic changes. So be part of the change and let’s hear your voice!

Amanda Brenda Sauta

1.In malawi we have a youth hub for youths to access technology though as per my experience those who are actually able to access these hubs are not many for example this hubs can be found at universities such as the formerly  named polytechnic university by chichiri campus in blantyre.My experience with this particular hub was that it was monopolized by the university and its students as a student at the time not being from that particular campus my access to the hub and its technology was limited thus it didnt not benefit me.The most useful interface fir technology that was most accessible to me was through my cell phone which i depend on for 97 percent of my engagements and virtual meetings as a volunteer and social worker and student. That being said my interactions though digital and technology has been really good especially in this time of covid 19 where there are less face to face interactions.

2.i claim a space by being proactive and engaging in skill upgrading exercises to develop my skills and value.Being vocal and asking for mentorship and most especially networking.

3.I use my social media accounts to support relevant movements and spread awareness...i also seek out youth led dialogue with leaders and those in positions of power which help add momentum to the change i wish to see as a youth.Through trainings and workshops i get opportunities to engage with these leaders and ask them to fulfil thir obligations  .

4.there were less women in these workshops and of those who were there less than 5 would be vocal in local workshops whilst in international workshops more women were vocal and active but still not as much as men.i feel gender roles and norms at times culturally install in women that they need to be quite than males and more reserved...i say this because alot of these women are very qualified yet not as vocal.i feel instead of empowering women to actual participate freely whats commonly done is that womens actually representation is falsified to satisfy the public and donors etc for example .

5.in third world countries like malawi where the majority of the population is youth and the majority of the population is in rural areas movement that use social media are not fully effective when used alone as most youths in rural areas do not even have phones to access to enable them to participate. in this case we need to introduce technology to these areas first and we need to combine several technologies that they may have access to.for example use of radio programs is very effective in most rural area...whats needed is to create messages and movements through radios that are attractive and youth friendly.that being said it does not take away the fact that there is a need to invest in access to technology in this rural areas which most governments can not afford to do.Before even the idea of introducing technology there is the biggest barrier which is low levels of literacy and little to non basic technology literacy...as hard as it may be to believe persons in rural areas can have no concept of reality as if they are living in a different era before the dawn of digital and technology...there is need for training and literacy increase before the introduction of technology...all this to say there is need for major investment in this field 

 6.this looks like a place free from sexual harassment,toxic masculinity and social status quo...a place with mutual respect where we can all help teach each other how to grow and best develop to our full capacities and beyond.


7.Due the the over politicized nature and toxic masculinity as well as bulling and threats,lack of diversity and low levels of literacy in Malawi .i am not at leisure to fully and freely use technology as of yet sadly .That being said i still .

8.firstly creating a culture of tolerance for diversity and mutual respect and understanding among youth.i believe our police should actively work with cyber crime unit to ensure safe environment for youths.parents should talk to their children and social media should create policies to ensure bullying is not tolerated and that sexual harrassment is totally unacceptable. it would be wonderful if they could create a awareness drive on health use of social media.That being said some social media like facebook have some structures in place for such purposes however regrettably they do not always take complaints seriously which enables abusers and sexual harassers to gain confidence in their unacceptable behaviors. terms and conditions should be shown in bold large letters to highlight their importance to the reader as because of how they appear to be non important most youths just mindlessly agree to them without reading them.Youths need to be taught the importance of reading terms and conditions and they should be shown in concise way stating the important matter and not just long paragraphs half filled with unuseful information as this discourages people from reading them.

Sophia El Bahja Moderator

Thank you [~119420] for your fruitful insights.
I would love to know more from you concerning the following questions.


1. Did you ever express your feelings and concerns concerning these hubs to people responsible for their management? If yes, what did they do to change the situation?
3. What are the specific social media channels that you use, where you find decision-makers available and active, ready to listen? If you could share with us a specific topic that you handled. That would be perfect!
7. If you can share with us an experience (yours or someone you know) where the use of technology in a specific topic/area had negative consequences on the person. 

Musa Ansumana Soko

Hello everyone, warm greetings from Sierra Leone; a small country in West Africa with a huge youth bulge of 60% of the population. It feels really exciting to be here and especially follow some of the very useful insights you all are bringing into the conversations.
Key concerns around the topic of debate for me are primarily centered on how will this process bring on board and build the capacity of young people in especially fragile democracies and post-conflict settings where opportunities to fully leverage ICT potentials for young people remain a daily nightmare. Getting youth onboard from the margins of society will to the largest extent attempts to answer the question of hour youth can and should leverage the potentials of ICT for democracy.

Sophia El Bahja Moderator

Thank you so much [~119458] for your contribution.
It would be great if we could know more from you concerning the following questions:

DIGITAL EMPOWERMENT

  1. What are your experiences in expressing your needs and aspirations to local institutions in the digital sphere and through online channels?
  2. How do you claim a space in decision-making processes in the digital sphere?
  3. How do you use technology to hold accountable decision-makers for advocating for peaceful, just and inclusive societies?

 

DIGITAL INCLUSIVITY

  1. Think of a time when you were part of an online consultation/meeting/workshop, were there as many women as men? And do you think gender representation is different in the digital sphere compared to offline engagement?
  2. How can technology help in tackling the digital divide and increase participation, in particular of those at risk of being left behind? 

 

DIGITAL FREEDOM

  1. In your opinion, what does a safe, gender-responsive and enabling digital space look like?
  2. How freely can you use technology to contribute to transparency, enhance access to information, support content creation, counter misinformation and foster tolerance?
  3. What are your priorities for making digital spaces safe for youth and addressing challenges of breach of privacy, surveillance and harassment?

Please log in or sign up to comment.