Designed by youth: the architects of our digital future
UNICEF and the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth champion youth engagement in building a secure, inclusive and open digital society
Coming generations of young people will live and grow in a world of rapidly evolving technology. Today, they exist in a digital environment that creates and defines the socio-economic fabric of their communities. With access to technology, young people have the potential to become the architects, designers and innovators of our collective digital future.
However, 2.7 billion people are still offline globally. With 96% of disconnected people living in low- and middle-income countries and much of the burden of disconnection falling on school-aged children, a seismic shift is required to ensure that the future is equitable and inclusive.
In September 2021, the Office of the UN Secretary-General released Our Common Agenda. Among its key proposals was the Global Digital Compact (GDC) which aims to improve digital cooperation. With the support of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology the Governments of Rwanda and Sweden are leading the Global Digital Compact design process. In designing the GDC, stakeholders in government, the UN system, the private sector, civil society, grass-roots organizations, academia, and individuals, including youth, are engaged to shape the future of technological advancement.
“The digital revolution presents opportunities and threats for people today and for generations to come. The Global Digital Compact represents an important step in creating a safe and just digital future. Engaging youth at the GDC design table- as advocates, entrepreneurs, social innovators- is a non-negotiable part of ensuring that we build an open and safe digital future for all."
UNICEF and the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth are coordinating global youth participation in the GDC consultative process through a U-Report poll. Young people shared recommendations via the digital platform on key issues including online safety, privacy, and inclusion. Insights from this consultation informed UNICEF’s submission to the GDC – a critical step in amplifying the voices of youth so their rights, interests, and opportunities are upheld.
A month-long U-Report poll was launched on a global platform and in nine countries reaching nearly 80,000 people more than 80% of whom are under the age of 34. Among the respondents, 41% said they are mostly worried about how technology will change the world over the next decade. One teenager from Indonesia shared her concern that “technology will be replacing humans,” while another young person from Nicaragua expressed that “children are at risk from misinformation.” Critically, only 28% of the respondents felt they have control over how technology will impact their lives in the coming decade, indicating a serious lack of trust in our collective digital future.
“Young people must rightfully be engaged as key partners in shaping the future of technology, not only because they are the most connected generation in history, but also because young people have routinely proven to be innovators, solutions-makers and restless advocates for a better and safer digital future. I am echoing the UN Secretary-General's call for meaningful youth engagement in intergovernmental policymaking processes, including in supporting the process of the Global Digital Compact."
The digital revolution presents both challenges and opportunities, especially for young people. As stakeholders worldwide grapple with harnessing technology's power for social good, young people in all their diversity must be in the conversation. A secure, inclusive, open, and just digital society is an intergenerational ambition; unlocking intergenerational solutions is central to shaping a digital society fit for all.
About UNICEF Office of Innovation (OOI)
UNICEF’s Office of Innovation is an agile global team supporting our mission to be a public sector innovation leader. OOI aligns with diverse partners to boldly explore, design, iterate, and scale innovative approaches and technologies to deliver equitable and sustainable social impact. Our collective efforts deliver opportunity for children and youth today and set an accelerated pace of change for generations to come.
Across more than 190 countries and territories, UNICEF operates to help children and their communities survive, thrive and fulfil their potential. We advocate for and with children, support countries set and deliver agendas that prioritize children’s rights, and unlock diverse resources to achieve these ambitious goals. Find out more at www.unicef.org/innovation
About the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth
The Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth serves as a global advocate for the needs and rights of young people and a bridge between the United Nations (UN) and young people worldwide. The Envoy is mandated by the UN Secretary-General to spearhead the implementation of the first-ever UN system-wide youth strategy, Youth 2030, across the UN system, ensuring expanded global, regional and country-level action to improve the UN’s work with and for young people. In this way, both the Office of the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth (OSGEY) and Youth2030 share a common vision of a world in which the human rights of every young person are realized; a world that ensures every young person is empowered to achieve their full potential; and a world that recognizes young people’s agency, resilience and positive contributions as agents of change.
OSGEY worked to expand the UN's youth engagement and advocacy efforts across sustainable development, human rights, peace and security, and humanitarian action through the Office's four strategic approaches: participation, advocacy, partnerships and coordination. Learn more about OSGEY at https://www.un.org/youthenvoy/
U-Report is UNICEF’s flagship digital platform to engage adolescents and youth in programme, emergency response, and advocacy actions. With over 29 million U-Reporters, it is active in 93 countries and growing by one U-Reporter every 4 seconds.
U-Report operates as a messaging platform for youth participation and is a key tool for sharing information and receiving feedback on specific areas that impact young people, including the most vulnerable. Through it, youth actively participate in decision-making processes and speak out to achieve social change. For more information, visit www.ureport.in.