This blog post is based on Yesterday’s Twitter discussion on the role of youth in development.
We've heard conversations about how young this world is. Yes, we are talking about the growing youth bulge, the 50% of the world's population. Out of the world's youth population 85% are coming from the developing world. The youth bulge represents both part of the problems such as unemployment, inter-generational poverty, and as well as the solution. So the need to accentuate this demographic imperative has been gaining momentum within larger policy platforms for some time.
With the expiry date of the Millennium Development Goals coming nearer there's a dire need to revisit the nature of the role of youth as an enabler to drive development. With more than 85% of youth living in the developing world imagine the power to challenge existing systems and to reinvent change processes. But really, is this only a Utopian way of thinking? What power are we talking about? Some may ponder.
At the One Young World and Beyond 2015 summits in Johannesburg and Costa Rica in 2013, some 1000 youth talked about the power of technology and how youth's capabilities in the change process converge at the navel of technology. Global Shapers and the prestigious World Economic Forum’s founding father Professor Klaus Schwab once said "we are becoming increasingly aware that solutions to our global challenges must purposefully engage youth, at all levels. This generation has the passion, dynamism and entrepreneurial spirit to shape the future.” Evidently this is the overarching objective behind the inception of Global Shapers; the very reason why I am writing this blog post to you.
At the UN Conference in Costa Rica in 2013, youth from across the world called on world leaders to support innovation and technology as methods to advance broader development, and drive positive change. To this end the idea is about how this large untapped power source –youth – can use technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship to solve debilitating poverty, overwhelming unemployment, and deteriorating environmental indicators. Post 2015 agenda must therefore look into – for instance – how in South Asia, one of the fastest growing regions, yet home to the largest concentration of poor in the world can utilize their one fifth of the population –youth – to find solutions to problems that affect their lives and their communities at large.
Imagine using technology, and innovation to find solutions that are more nimble, responsive to local needs, cultures, and aspirations. These solutions could be from bringing electricity to the flood plains of Bangladesh, or internet access to the slums of Kathmandu. It may be community-owned solar powered water pumps in Kenya enabling children to drink clean water, or locally-managed micro-hydro or wind powered electricity plants in Zimbabwe or Peru which can provide reliable power and lighting to shops, hospitals and schools. Conversations on the Post 2015 agenda must explore the formative actions as a world we must take to enable youth to help their communities to achieve well-being with less effort and drudgery, or at lower cost and with fewer resources. The world is in dire need to have this conversation.
Albeit, we are constantly facing issues of aspirations and approaches to investing in technological innovations in a market driven world. If you follow the money and see where the bulk of global investment in technology R&D goes, it is not into things that address some of the biggest issues of the day — the nearly 1 billion malnourished people in the world, the 1.3 billion without electricity, the nearly 1 billion still without access to clean drinking water. As Bill Gates once said in a TED talk, there is something very wrong with a world that spends more on developing a cure for male baldness than it does on finding a vaccine for malaria.
The real challenge is how we can inspire this ‘young world’ to prioritize their innovations to find solutions to real human and planetary challenges. The way we oversee, youth driven technological innovation from here on will determine whether we can find a sustainable future within the carrying capacity of the ecology we inhabit and whether the future will involve well-being for some or for all.
Also read our original blog post "On Making Youth an Enabling Pillar in the Post 2015 Agenda"