On International Youth Day today, I wanted to share my trip to the annual Youth Assembly at the UN in New York on Wednesday last week where I spoke to a fantastic audience of young people and got the chance to explain our exciting and innovative plans for the #BYND2015 Global Youth Summit taking place in Costa Rica next month.
The Global Youth Summit is similar to the Youth Assembly in that it represents a tremendous opportunity for young people to make their voices heard, or, as H.E. Simona Miculescu, Ambassador of Romania to the UN said in her Opening Welcome, it is an opportunity for young people to find their voices and make them heard, which will enable them to actively participate in the policy-making process that will ultimately shape their futures.
At ITU, we are committed to connecting the world and strongly believe in the power of technology to transform societies and improve the lives of everyone all over the planet.
When used to their full potential, ICTs can deliver incredible benefits in areas such as healthcare and education, as well as being crucial in addressing the biggest issues of our time like climate change, rapid urbanisation, and global sustainability. They’re also crucial in the development of online community building through the use of crowdsourcing and social media which brings people together on a global scale.
Gathered in New York on Wednesday, those young people represent a small percentage of the one billion under 25’s that are connected. I know from my own kids how easy and habitual ICTs are for young people, and how important it is for them to be (and to stay) connected.
So with this in mind, I ask you to consider what it would be like to be unconnected – without access to your social media accounts, to iTunes, Skype, WhatsApp or even your email. Imagine living without Wikipedia.
To some of you this is unimaginable, but there are at least three billion people under the age of 25 who are not online, who are not connected yet have so much to share, to give, and to learn.
It is easy to forget about the unconnected because we tend to assume that everyone is online but, as ITU statistics show, almost 70% of people in the developing world will still be offline by 2014. We need to change this and that is our mission: to Connect the World. So that everyone can participate. So that everyone can benefit. So that everyone can make their voice heard.
Just three weeks ago, Malala Yousafzai gave an inspirational talk at the UN in New York, nine months after surviving an assassination attempt by the Taliban in Pakistan. She spoke passionately about the need for education for all, and stated that with 1 child, 1 teacher, 1 book and 1 pen we can change the world. I would add, and one connection. Malala’s call to the world for education for all has been heard because she was connected and was exercising her Article 19 right to freedom of expression. She is a testament to the power of connectivity and the power of education. And our lives are richer because she is online, blogging and sharing her passion with us.
Every day we see how new technologies, especially ICTs, are accelerating progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). And arguably, ICTs will be even more important in setting and achieving the post-2015 development agenda, and in helping us to create, measure and achieve sustainable development goals for the future.
We are actively encouraging young people to participate in the #BYND2015 Summit regardless of whether or not they will be present in Costa Rica, through our crowdsourcing platform, social media channels, or even by creating a hub in their own community.
We are seeking young advocates to stand up for and promote the vital role of ICTs in the UN’s post-2015 development frameworks, to help support our cause and send a strong message to world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly this September.
Through online engagement and crowdsourcing tools, young audiences are telling us how they envision technology being put to use to change their world in positive ways; to help inspire and challenge others to do the same, and identify gaps and barriers to expanding access.
Based on these youthful, inspired ideas, an unprecedented statement of crowd-sourced policy recommendations will be delivered to the UN General Assembly in New York by Laura Chinchilla, the President of Costa Rica. This statement will outline young people’s priorities for future ICT use to help accelerate social, economic and environmental development.
The outcomes we are developing are unique to the #BYND2015 Summit, and highlight how an online discussion or movement can leap from a virtual dream into reality to influence global leaders and decision-making processes if the right mechanisms are available.
So let me ask all of you, on International Youth Day, to support the event, get involved, and spread the word. Youth are the future and we are counting on them!