I got the fortuitous privilege of being invited as a panelist by the DotAsia organisation to workshop 119- Defining the successful factors of different models for youth participation in Internet Governance. This workshop lived up to its name and was tremendously engaging.
Strictly speaking my current age lies outside the ambit of young people but comfortably within the definition of youth (depending on where you come from). Nonetheless, I took this opportunity to expatiate about the Internet Society Next Generation Leaders programme that seeks to prop up Internet leaders in the technical, policy and capacity building realms.
I shared the components and expectations of the Leadership programme; The fellowship to the IETF, the IGF ambassadorship, the OECD technology forum fellowship and the sponsorship to the World Bank Infodev. I stated that the programme is mainly targeted to working professionals within the age bracket of 20-40 years and that it may be unsuited for adolescent or post adolescent teens who are enthusiastic in attending an IGF.
Different panelists shared their perspectives on the successes so far of touting youth participation. Still a lot needs to be done especially in providing meaningful contribution by young people in the IGF process. This is really an arduous task as most young people may not have a predisposition to policy aspects of Internet Governance. Indeed one speaker during the concluding main session on taking stock and the way forward commented that the IGF still “suffers from youth showcasing”. This could probably be true as there do exist workshops that are crafted to target young people while at the same time these workshops seem to isolate them from the more coarser issues being addressed at the heart of the forum. I personally don’t imagine sufficient turnout by young people in revelling into challenging topics like new gTLDs however, more enlightenment and engagement on these issues by the youth, may actually bring a different perspective in such debates.
Regardless, panelists did see the need to make policy discussions more palatable to a younger audience and the ChildNet IGF project, the ISOC ambassadorship and the DotAsia sponsorship will go a long mile in making this possible