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Lesson 2: Technology for the Improved Accessibility of Youth Initiatives

In the exploration of youth participation in democratic processes, a recurring theme has emerged: the vital importance of creating an enabling environment for youth to engage and thrive in civic life. As the YDC unfolds ten case studies from Latin America to East Asia, it becomes clear that policymakers must strive to create inclusive systems empowering all youth to contribute. The authors found that, despite the unique contexts of each country, there are important policy lessons to be learned. In light of the findings of the study, five recommendations have been made. For this edition, the YDC presents a key policy lesson on technology for improved youth accessibility:

Technology for the improved accessibility of youth initiatives

Another lesson emerging from the case studies is the pivotal role of social media in increasing youth participation. Countries that have effectively harnessed the possibilities of digital platforms have experienced relatively higher levels of youth involvement, underscoring its potential as a dynamic communication tool. The use of technology can help address some of the obstacles to youth participation, including the lack of quality civic education and adult-centric institutions. Leveraging technology addresses the lack of quality civic education by providing innovative and accessible avenues for young people to engage with civic concepts, government processes, and policy issues. Governments can also transform institutions to be more youth-friendly by creating online platforms and mechanisms that amplify youth voices, foster intergenerational dialogue, and facilitate collaboration between young people and decision-makers.

Some Moroccan government officials use social media to provide weekly updates on the government’s work. In this way, they established a direct line of communication between government officials and the public, including the youth. By sharing regular updates, officials bridge the information and education gap, and engage youth in public affairs in a familiar and accessible manner. Another example is in Liberia, where youth-led organisations leverage Facebook to promote their projects and advance meaningful collaboration. 

With the goal of increased participation, it is imperative to find a balance between embracing the possibilities of social media and ensuring accessibility for all youth. The significant role of social media in the lives of young people offers an unprecedented avenue for interaction, outreach, and engagement. Its scalability, immediacy, and ability to create virtual communities make it an important asset in driving youth involvement in public affairs. It is crucial to acknowledge that relying solely on social media can exclude segments of the youth population with a lack of access to digital platforms, particularly those with limited internet connection or lacking digital literacy skills.

Policy Recommendations

Governments should strategically leverage the power of new technology to increase youth participation. This can be achieved through the following:

  1. Tools for digital advocacy: Create digital tools that facilitate youth advocacy. To ensure relevance and viability, the involvement of youth groups in development should be an absolute priority. The tools should be integrated by governments at all levels to facilitate online youth engagement in all policymaking processes. They can take various forms, including digital platforms, social media engagement tools, and interactive educational content. Online tools allow young people to raise their concerns, express opinions, build capacity, and advocate for their needs directly to decision makers. To enable youth to influence policies and programmes, these tools could facilitate the signing of digital petitions, conduct campaigns, and establish social media movements. 
  2. Two-way feedback mechanism: Establish digital two-way feedback mechanisms. Digital youth participation requires constant communication from both sides. Online engagement facilitates immediate feedback and reactions to proposed solutions, enabling governments to gauge public sentiment and make adjustments accordingly. Examples include virtual town halls and consultations on policy matters, and interactive feedback forms on government websites where youth can comment on proposed policies, providing qualitative insights.
  3. Traditional methods of youth engagement: Continue to engage youth in offline spaces. Digital platforms should not replace traditional methods of youth engagement. While social media reaches a wide audience, supplement it with in-person consultations, workshops, and community events. This approach ensures inclusivity by accommodating both digitally-connected and less digitally-connected youth, thus encouraging a more comprehensive and representative participation.