Generation Connect Global Youth Summit mobilizes young digital development leaders

The first-ever Generation Connect Global Youth Summit opened its doors today at Kigali’s Intare Conference Arena to more than 500 young people aged 15-29 from around the world to discuss a wide-ranging ‘tech for development’ agenda ahead of a landmark digital development conference.

Organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) with host country Rwanda, the three-day summit aims to drive meaningful youth engagement, consultation, collaboration, and participation in determining policies that will shape our increasingly digital world.

With a total of more than 1500 delegates from over 115 countries and 5,000+ joining online, it brings young leaders, entrepreneurs, social change-makers, engineers, policy specialists, and students together with today’s regional and global business leaders, decision-makers, and community advocates in the run-up to ITU’s World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC).

“The United Nations system needs to become more inclusive as we strive to build a better world for our children to inherit,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhou. “Among the concrete steps taken to address this, the ITU Youth Strategy calls for supporting youth empowerment, bringing young people together for direct engagement, and fostering youth dialogue and participation in decision-making processes.”

Key topics at the three-day Youth Summit include the global digital divide, youth access to online education and digital skills, the digital gender gap, online safety, e-waste management, the future of work, digital entrepreneurship, the role of technology in climate change, and more.

Addressing young delegates gathered at the Intare Arena this afternoon, Rwandan Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Dr Édouard Ngirente, said: “The extent to which our economies can grow will depend on the ability to ensure equitable access to technology as well as upskilling and reskilling our populations, especially the young people. These are global opportunities that require global cooperation. It is in this spirit that the Generation Connect Global Youth Summit is kicking off, because young people around the world are central to the vision to connect the unconnected.”

The high-level representatives welcomed at this morning’s opening ceremony also included Hon. Rosemary Mbabazi, Minister for Youth and Culture, who told assembled delegates that “The advancement of technology in today’s world is a constant factor, and youth are the early adopters, developers of these new technologies. Given an enabling environment, youth can bring the change and transformation needed in the world.”

Preparing a Call to Action

The summit programme, co-designed with young people from ITU’s global Generation Connect Youth network, will culminate with a consensus-based Call to Action on ‘Our Digital Future’.

This will comprise recommendations to enhance youth engagement in building an inclusive, sustainable digital future for all. Key aims include direct participation of youth in devising government digital strategies, as well as in the work of ITU and the wider UN system.

Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT), encouraged young delegates to be bold, and be creative. “As the first true generation of digital natives, your youthful perspective, combined with your digital skills, offer us a real chance to navigate a new and better path, to break down old barriers, and to finally create that elusive, equitable, ‘World We Want’,” she said.

Youth envoys will present the Call to Action to leaders and decision-makers at WTDC – the main development-oriented conference held every four years by ITU, the UN specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs). See what young people are saying at the summit.

Addressing diverse needs 

ITU’s Youth Strategy is aligned with the vision and objectives of the United Nations Youth Strategy: Youth 2030 – ‘working with and for young people’. As part of this, summit participants will share the positive and negative impacts of technology on their lives.

The programme features a special focus on the needs of young women, young people with disabilities, and young indigenous people. It also highlights the challenges of young people who are not yet connected to the Internet, or who struggle with connectivity that is too limited to help them flourish and realize their dreams and ambitions.

The Generation Connect Global Youth Summit’s global footprint reflects preparatory activities at over 70 hubs in over 40 countries. Hosted by academic institutions, not-for-profits, and private-sector companies, these hubs have mobilized close to 5,000 youth, who will connect live throughout various summit sessions.

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