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At a glance: Japan

Junior 8 Summit delegates use online workspace to advance their viewpoints

© UNICEF video
From digital cameras to laptops, young people at the J8 Summit are utilizing technology to come together and find solutions.

By Rob McBride

HOKKAIDO, Japan, 7 July 2008 – Every evening after dinner they begin to congregate in the dimly lit lobby of the hotel. Small groups of teenagers sit with their laptops open, their faces tinted blue by the computer screens, typing busily as a collective ‘click-click’ fills the room.

Of course, they could be e-mailing their families and friends from the far-off countries from which they’ve come. But look over any shoulder and chances are, you will see the familiar logo of the Junior 8 Summit.

For the young delegates attending this event – absorbed for much of the day in high-pressure debates about pressing world issues – this moment is vitally important. It is when they have time, either as a group or individually, to ponder some of the solutions they will adopt by the time this summit finishes. For them, a valuable space which has been made possible by technology.

Platform for collaboration

“Yes, it’s really working” said one of the delegates from Italy, Marco Zabai, looking up momentarily from his screen. He was putting the finishing touches on his group’s presentation about infectious diseases, due the next morning. “I am getting some really useful information from the net.”

With every J8 delegate using a laptop loaned by Sony for the duration of the summit, and with each of those computers connected by wi-fi, the virtual ‘J8 Workspace’ has become their common area for collaboration. They have been meeting in cyberspace whenever they want, regardless of whether they are at the official hotel or the J8 Summit venue here in Chitose City on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. 

© UNICEF video
Young delegates use SONY-provided laptops to create PowerPoint presentations and update their shared workspace.

On this shared online platform, the delegates have been busy formulating ideas and putting together solutions to the key issues that the summit has set out to tackle. (Click here  to find out more about J8 activities online.)

Quality of presentations

“Before the summit, we were given the chance to work on the Workspace,” said US delegate Avani Jariwala. “And it’s been great because a lot of us have gotten chance to communicate to each other and work on our topic presentations before we got here.” 

That preparation has been evident in the quality of the work being presented.  Tackling a set of issues similar to those their adult G8 counterparts have been addressing, these young people have risen to the challenge of proposing workable answers.

They have been drafting presentations on sophisticated solutions that they are calling upon the leaders of the industrialized world to adopt, on behalf of the world’s children. And thanks to the J8 Workspace, children the world over have been able to follow their progress.

‘I love the technology’

Chosen after an extensive worldwide selection process by UNICEF, the 39 young people brought together for this summit are original thinkers who are well equipped to express their ideas. Thanks to cameras that Sony has also provided to help the participants document both their time at the conference and their follow-up activities, the J8 Workspace is now sprinkled with pithy and pertinent sound bites.

The delegates are clearly not short of opinions on any of the subjects they have been dealing with, and a few more besides.

When the J8 participants leave the summit, those cameras will be going with them to their home countries so they can continue their work; following up on the pledges made at this gathering and reporting back on the progress. 

"That’s my opportunity to share with the participants," said delegate Je-Meila Maloney from Barbados. "And by extension, they can share with me what they are doing. So I love the technology."




7 July 2008:
UNICEF correspondent Rob McBride speaks with young people using technology to create a 'virtual workspace' at the J8 Summit in Japan.
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