Unlock Our Digital Future
Young people call for collective and increased investment in supporting local social innovation ecosystems, and a global redistribution of digital power dynamics, to design and build our shared digital future.
There are 1.8 billion young people in the world today, with nearly 90% residing in low- and middle-income countries.
This generation of youth is the largest in history, but more than a quarter of them feel they have little to no control over how technology will impact their lives over the next decade. In addition, 3 in 4 young people believe their generation will change the world; yet only 1 in 4 feel school has helped them prepare for adult working life.
We are witnessing a global digital paradox: millions are digital natives, tech entrepreneurs, and social innovators, but a significant majority face restricted or limited digital access. Despite these limitations, young people in connectivity-deprived, underfunded, agency-limiting geographies have found ways toward louder calls for action and toward groundbreaking innovation and ingenuity.
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 a global ambition; unlocking intergenerational solutions is central to shaping a digital society fit for all.
At the 2024 Summit of the Future, agreements will be made on a Global Digital Compact (GDC), “the highest-level capturing of political will in terms of a comprehensive view of the digital world.” Through its Office of Innovation (OOI) and in alignment with the Office of the Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth, UNICEF co-leads the global youth GDC consultation and continues to champion youth engagement and leadership, by ensuring youth-centered development of localized digital solutions, including Digital Public Goods, and by securing investments to enable local youth to do so.
Young social innovators and tech entrepreneurs are already working toward a more equitable and just digital world. An equitable flow of global capital will help unlock the untapped global potential of youth to build and preserve an open and inclusive digital future. Enabling today’s young generation as owners and maintainers of future digital public infrastructure will unlock their potential as innovators and global social impact citizens.
To enable young people to become the innovation architects of our free, open, inclusive, and secure digital future, we must invest in social innovation ecosystems and youth entrepreneurship today, securing a pipeline of localized solutions with the potential for transformational impact; and we must design and re-design systems today for youth to have ownership and agency of the digital tomorrow.
Through initiatives like Giga, we are ensuring every school is securely connected to the Internet, connecting every young person to a world of information, opportunity, and choice.
Through our social innovator incubator, UPSHIFT, we are equipping young people to develop entrepreneurial solutions to challenges they identify in their communities.
And through the first venture capital vehicle in the UN, the UNICEF Venture Fund, we are funding and mentoring innovators from emerging markets who are leveraging frontier technologies to develop Digital Public Goods to equitably improve lives, effectively shaping markets and provoking tech sectors to benefit every child.
By diversifying capital flows to enable entire ecosystems where young tech and social innovators can thrive, we can equip young people with the skills and opportunities they want and need to continue to design and build our shared digital future.