Community Projects Internet Governance

Bringing Youth to the Internet Governance Discussions

Many young people age 18-25 are the first generation of adults to grow up not knowing the world without the Internet. For those that do not have access, they are some of the people that are pushing hardest for it.

Young people are shaping online culture in so many ways. They use the Internet to meet people around the world, create the videos that go viral, they create art that moves us and start and stand behind online social movements that make us think.

They are building their dream Internet.

And yet when it comes to policy discussions, most of them are not at the table.

We want to change that.

Last year, we partnered with the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI Brasil) to launch a pilot program called “Youth@IGF.”

It saw 120 young people — aged 18-25 — from around Latin America and the Caribbean, go through a series of online courses about privacy, security and Internet governance. They came from a wide variety of backgrounds, ranging from programming and engineering to law and activism. More than 70 went on to attend one of the world’s most influential meetings in Internet policy, the Internet Governance Forum.

Many of the Youth@IGF participants went on to form the ISOC Youth SIG; our first special interest group focused on how governance issues affect young people.

This year, we’re expanding Youth@IGF to include young people from around the world with NIC México and the Government of México as proud partners. Together, we’ll put 200 young people through online coursework, and send the top performers to the IGF in Guadalajara.

“These young people are among the next generation of Internet leaders. They are the ones who will take up the mantle to help figure out how to preserve the privacy of Internet users, how to make a more secure Internet, and how to connect the next billion users. It’s crucial we get them involved now” says Toral Cowieson Senior Director of Leadership Porgrammes at the Internet Society.” The Youth SIG is already helping start many of these discussions among both their peers and the generation of teenagers coming up behind them.

When it comes to Internet governance, we don’t need young people to be the future. We need them to be part of the present. Youth@IGF is one of the ways we’re making that happen.

If you qualify, we urge you to apply now and build your #dreamInternet.

For more information and application, please visit Youth @IGF Programme pages:

Improving Technical Security

Security Go: Young People Paving the Way to Better Online Security

At the Internet Society’s Student Pizza Night during IETF 96, I asked several students from Europe, Asia, and North America how they would respond to the same question:

How do we make young Internet users more secure?

Every student I asked said that security for young Internet users is a problem. The majority thought that both poor security practices and a general ignorance of the risks contribute to the problem. Pokémon Go was used as an example. Millions of younger users may be playing games without considering the security and privacy implications they may have. In this specific case, the developer, Niantic, gathers data from its users and may give it to third parties. Although it has since been removed in a patch, the Pokémon Go app also demanded full access to some users’ Google accounts.

While a few students supported better education about security for young users, most argued for a technical solution. They suggested that strong end-to-end encryption should be automatic on apps and services. By taking away the effort or knowledge needed to use security tools, most students thought that a greater number of young people would be better protected. This is particularly important for the youngest of users who may not yet know how to put good security practices in place.

Some students felt that improved education would help young people learn security and privacy skills. Many others disagreed. They said that few young people will apply difficult to use security tools, regardless of education. Indifference was also cited as a problem. This reminded me of a friend who said, only half-jokingly, that “in exchange for Pokémon? Niantic can read all my emails and my google searches if they want.

While I agree that technical solutions can help reduce the problem, I do not believe they are the only solution. It is important that we give people better tools to protect themselves and that they are automatically or easily implemented. There are some attacks, like phishing or social engineering, that may be difficult to address with technology. Education and awareness campaigns, particularly those developed with input from young people, are important for equipping youth with the knowledge and skills necessary to defend against these attacks.

Although the students I spoke with focused on either technical or educational solutions, there are many more ways to help young users be more secure online. It is important that youth think about their security online, talk about it with their friends, and are actively involved in creating new security solutions. [1]

In Pokémon Go, the closer you are to a Pokémon, the more likely you are to find and catch it. In life, the closer you are to a problem, the more likely you are to solve it.

Five Ways Young People Can Boost Their Online Security

1. Talk to your friends and family. How do they stay safe online?

2. Become active. Join the Youth Observatory – a group of young people around the world who are changing how we make Internet policy!

3. Check out your social media privacy settings and app permissions. Read US-CERT’s tips for Staying Safe on Social Networking Sites and Tripwire’s article on flashlight app permissions.

4. Learn about your online life! There are some great tutorials that can help like the Internet Society’s Digital Footprint.

5. Tell decision makers your voice counts when it comes to discussions around the future of the Net. Use the hashtag #dreamInternet and let people know your solutions for helping young people be more secure online.


[1] The Internet Society Fellowship to the Internet Engineering Task Force enables technology professionals, advanced IT students, and other qualified professionals from emerging and developing economies to attend IETF meetings.

Image credit: University Life 30 CC BY 2.0

Community Projects

Calling All Young People: Join The Youth Observatory and Help Change How Internet Policy is Made

Late last year, some friends and I got together to form ISOC’s first Youth Special Interest Group (SIG) or, as we call it, the Youth Observatory.  Why? The voices of young people aren’t heard when it comes to Internet policy.

We’re the generation that’s been using the Internet since we were children, and we’re the one’s who will be using it for the next 50 years.

Our voice matters.

Today, having the first Youth Latin American and Caribbean Internet Governance Forum, which will take place in San José, Costa Rica on the eve of the larger Latin America and Caribbean Network Information Centre Internet Governance Forum. We’ll be speaking here too, but before we can talk about young Latin Americans’ vision for the Internet, we need as many young people from as many different backgrounds as we can — to help share the vision.

We ALL need a space where we can have a conversation about what they want the Internet to look like.

And we’re going to turn the idea of a meeting on its head. There will be no panelists. We don’t want this to be a conference where people sit and listen to experts.

We need you to BE A PART OF IT.  

I mean, if we wanted just to sit and listen to smart people, we could just as well stay home and watch videos in our pyjamas.

We want this to be a conference where young people working in various areas get to exchange ideas; where someone working for a telco in Cuba can sit down and talk with a Paraguayan privacy expert or Mexican app developer. We’re going to look at four broad topics: Infrastructure and Access, Internet and Human Rights, Security and Surveillance, and Youth and Governance. From there, we’ll come up with a few subtopics we’d like to explore. Then we’ll break out into a series of small groups to discuss those subtopics and report back. Those ideas and conversations are going to be at the core of what we present to the larger IGF.

We want these conversations to be as serious as the subject matter, but informal enough that everyone feels like they can take part.  We want to make an environment where there are no bad ideas, and where we consider everyone’s perspective.

It’s a crucial time for the Internet in Latin America and the Caribbean. Many countries are looking to create or revamp their laws on online data collection. In the Caribbean, there is a debate around the tradeoff between privacy and better Internet browsing experience provided by ad blockers. Our work at the Internet Society is to make sure that young people are represented in these discussions.

We think it is now or never

Our IGF is just part of that mission. We are working hard to change the world. It’s now or never

Join them or show your support and visit the Youth LACIGF website 
Join the Youth Observatory or show your support by using the tag #weareyouth on your social channels!