The World Conference on Youth 2014 was held in Colombo last week where youth representatives and various stakeholders including government officials gathered from nearly 160 countries to discuss the issues of the youth community. The theme of the conference was based on developing the post 2015 agenda on youth development and various aspects related to youth development were discussed. These findings of the conference were documented in the Colombo Declaration which would become a primary input for United Nation in coming up with post 2015 youth development strategies. The conference emphasised on the importance of Information Technology (IT) in youth development and some of the highlights are discussed below.
The Secretary to Sri Lanka’s President Mr. Lalith Weeratunga addressed the main plenary session on Mainstreaming Youth in the Post-2015 Development Agenda and highlighted the importance of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in youth development. He said “Throughout the years, ICTs has not had a more robust and loyal champion than the youth. They have effectively exploited ICTs to dictate the trends in a major growth industry, and fostered it to generate youth entrepreneurship as a solution for youth unemployment. Be that as it may, these are not advantages that youth all over the world enjoy. For those in developing countries in particular, ICT access comes at an unaffordable cost.” The main argument put forward was the making ICT affordable for all youth as a mean to empower them in the development process. Mr. Weeratunga further stated that there is a powerful potential for ICTs to cut across many recommendations to strengthen their outcomes. However, it was also presented that the governments must go beyond simply enhancing access and become actively involved in training and creating programmes aimed towards the empowerment of young people. In commenting on the IT and job opportunities, Mr. Weeratunga said that becoming ICT-savvy does not only open doors for job opportunities, but also motivates and enables young people to learn about their communities and become active in the local development process.
The round table session on Poverty Eradication and Food Security discussed the importance of technology in achieving this aim. Mr. Anushka Wijesinha from the Institute of Policy Studies highlighted the ability to use technology to eradicate poverty. He noticed that youth participation in the agriculture industry has been dropping over time. However, citing an example from the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka, he stated that the youth who are already engaged in the agriculture industry use mobile phone applications to support trading. Further, he also commented on the use of social media at the global scale in order to support the agriculture industry while concluding that technology is a great method to eradicate poverty and address food security.
The outcome of the conference was the Colombo Declaration which included 97 recommendations for youth development. Among many recommendations that are related to IT/ICT, following recommendations are identified as prominent and expected to be implemented at a global scale:
- Encourage the use of Information and Communication Technology in education the establishment of inter- and intra-regional youth innovation and technology centers, as a means of disseminating knowledge, skills development, innovation and connectivity, thereby enhancing infrastructure in these areas.
- Increase recognition of non-formal education and vocational education, including volunteer schemes and Information and Communication Technology models and apprenticeships, as an effective means of empowerment and skills transfer.
It is interesting to notice that IT/ICT being given the due importance in the post 2015 development of youth. According to Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, the U.N. Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, this was not the beginning or the end but an opportunity to cater to the issues brought forward for the benefit of the youth of the world. Hence, we can expect more and more development in IT/ICT fields in terms of supporting youth development which is crucial for the betterment of the society.