Around the world, in every region, more young people are online than adults. And yet they are often left out of the conversation when it comes to creating the digital strategies and policies that impact them.
Creating the digital leaders of tomorrow requires empowering the digital youth of today. The Kofi Annan Changemakers (KAC) and Generation Connect, the youth initiative of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) are joining forces to facilitate this.
The Generation Connect—KAC partnership aims to amplify young voices and perspectives in the fast-paced world of digital development.
Abdul Gafaru Dasana Amin and Sophiyat Sadiq were invited to join the KAC project earlier this year to develop leadership skills and amplify their impact in their communities. Both were already active in the Generation Connect Africa Regional Youth Group.
Abdul, from Ghana, says he is passionate about poverty eradication, gender equality, and inclusive economic growth. He is a co-founder of SheaMe, a start-up that seeks to empower rural women by employing them and integrating them into a sustainable crop supply chain for companies in Ghana and Sierra Leone.
SheaMe serves as an out-grower for skin- and haircare products derived from the shea tree in Ghana, and for Imperishable LLC, a Sierra Leone-based firm that uses solar fruit drying technology to aid in reducing post-harvest losses in fruits and vegetables.
“Investing in economic empowerment, especially among young women, sets a direct path towards poverty eradication, gender equality and inclusive economic growth,” Abdul says.
Working towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as a young leader is in line with the “Kofi Annan Way”, he adds.
Power of youth leadership
The late Kofi Atta Annan – Ghanaian diplomat, seventh UN Secretary-General, 2001 Nobel Peace Prize co-recipient, and founder of the foundation bearing his name – strongly advocated the power of youth leadership for sustainable development. “You’re never too young to lead, and we are never too old to learn,” he memorably said in some of his final public statements in 2018.
Sophiyat, from Nigeria, entered the KAC programme intent on acquiring the skills “to build the Africa we all want to see.”
For her, this means a digital economy in which young girls can participate fully, regardless of their gender or socio-economic backgrounds.
From left: Sophiyat Sadiq, Doreen Bogdan-Martin and Abdul Gafaru Dasana Amin. Image credit: ITU
At 21 years old, Sophiyat is making an impact in her community, working with girls in Lagos to build their capacity with digital tech and in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects. She points to the need for platforms for youth to lead and learn.
On her experience as a Generation Connect Regional Youth Envoy, she adds: “I’ve particularly enjoyed the feeling of being heard and knowing that we were given the opportunity to create the change we want to see.”
The world’s fast-moving digital transformation needs everyone’s input.
Generation Connect identifies young digital changemakers who bring unique perspectives on digital development to help inform ITU’s work on the harmonization, standardization, and development of global communication networks.
The initiative is central to ITU’s Youth Strategy, which aims to empower, engage, and increase the participation of youth as leaders in digital transformation.
In line with this mission, the KAC project helps young people develop leadership capacity to increase their impact. As the experiences of Abdul and Sophiyat make clear, young leaders can serve as a powerful force in shaping our digital future.
This November, ITU collaborated with KAC to host an intergenerational dialogue on digital development. Open discussions provided the opportunity for young participants and older technology and policy professionals to exchange ideas on digital inclusion.
Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, reflected on her own career and shared some life lessons as a changemaker and trailblazer.
“It was a pleasure to discuss connectivity and digital inclusion with the Kofi Annan Changemakers! We need to continue to champion youth voices in the digital development dialogue, the future looks bright with this group!”
ITU’s partnership with the Kofi Annan Foundation aims to amplify youth input in the fast-paced world of digital transformation. Collaborative activities ensure the participation of youth as key stakeholders in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with a particular focus on achieving positive impact in the lives of young people.
Learn more about Generation Connect.
Header image credit: ITU