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  • Writer's picturealicjapawluczuk

Youth Participation in Internet Governance: why should we care?

In October, I travelled to Strasbourg to take part in the seminar on Youth Participation in Internet Governance was organised by the Council of Europe. The aim of the event was to consult youth organisations from Europe and beyond, on how to best involve youth’s voices in the new the Internet Governance Strategy 2016 – 2019, developed by the Council of Europe.

As a digital practitioner, I would often include elements of internet governance into my work. During digital workshops at Digital Beez, concepts such as online safety and digital awareness were always highlighted as two of our key learning priorities. Although some of my experience of digital youth work focused on advocacy and education, I was never directly involved in Internet Governance (also called Internet Politics or Internet Management). The seminar provided me with a great opportunity to deepen my understanding of Internet Governance.

CC: BY Gero Nagel

Copyrights by Gero Nagel

The seminar took place at the European Youth Centre in Strasbourg. Three days were packed with informative and interesting teaching sessions as well as practical workshops, where digital youth practice could be shared from countries such as Albania, Italy, Cyprus, Germany or Georgia.

What is Internet Governance?

While searching for the definition of internet governance, I came across this frequently asked question, which pretty much sums up:

In other words, the term 'Internet governance' refers to: “the processes that impact how the Internet is managed. The historic and future success of the Internet as an open and trusted platform for innovation and empowerment depends on a decentralized, collaborative, and multistakeholder approach to Internet governance” (Internet Society, 2015).

If you'd like to find out more, there is a free course on the topic of Internet Governance offered by the Internet Society, which can be accessed here.

Why should young people participate in Internet Governance?

Young people contribute to the online world 24/7. Examples of initiatives such as Adobe Youth Voices or Digital Ambassadors show that young people's voices and actions are needed, and can lead to real social change.

However, whilst digital media provide younger generations with tools to communicate their messages globally, some argue the online world only provides them with an “illusionary freedom and autonomy” (Herring,2008, p.73). After all, it is the adults, who manage, and capitalise on, young people’s digital participation. Young people are certainly the biggest group of active online users.

The question here is: are young people equally involved in shaping the future of the online world?

Well, from what I've learned during my recent visit in Strasbourg, I can say that the process of involving young people in Internet Governance is certainly becoming an important topic. For example, you can view this document titled: "Youth IGF initiatives and other youth-focused formations" to find out more about existing youth-centred Internet Governance (IG) projects. Here is the opening paragraph of this document, highlighting the importance of youth participation in IG:

"While the impact of the Internet on youth has been discussed for quite some time at the annual meetings of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), where young people have attended as well, it is only relatively recently in the history of the IGF that young people have become engaged in actual working processes. There is an increasing recognition by the IGF community of the importance of engaging young people in its working processes – from understanding key issues, to planning events and actively participating. Moreover, a variety of approaches have been undertaken to include the views and voices of youth in Internet policy discussions at the IGF annual meeting and during the preparatory process" (Gengo, 2017, p.3).

So, why should young people get involved in Internet Governance? Well, most importantly, , as a generation of young digital citizens (often described as digital natives) , young people can bring new and innovative solutions to how the Internet is govern. Particularly in the context of Human Rights for Internet Users, young people can provide an up to date versions of problems affecting their digital lives. Fo example , No Hate Speech campaign is a fantastic example of youth's involvement in the fight against hate speech online. On your right , you can see a photo I took at the event - #NOHATESPEECH young activists from Albania and Cyprus.

Another great example of you young people's involvement in IG is 5Rights . If you'd like to read more about the group of young Scots advocating for Children's Rights online, make sure to visit their blog.

There are numerous ways to get involved in IG. The best way to consider you options is to visit the link below (link to blog by Yosr Jounini).

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