The Digital Power of Youth

The Digital Power of Youth

Since the century’s start, we’ve had an array of different terms used to describe the generation born somewhere between the 1980s and the early 200s. Marc Prensky, American author, speaker and consultant on education and learning coined the term “digital natives” to highlight the break from the previous generation (“digital immigrants”) who were not born into a world where technology has revolutionized the way we interact, see the world and even how we define ourselves. This generation has also been called millennials, in honor of the new millennium; gen Y, as successors of gen X; echo boomers, to emphasize their large numbers (it is estimated that today 43% of the world’s population is 25 years old or younger[1]); etc. Whatever you want to call them, there is a general consensus that although this is a generation difficult to pigeonhole, the widespread access to computers, the internet, cell phones etc… has given them opportunities that were previously unthinkable.

Millennials: The Challenger Generation, a global study done by Havas Worldwide (a future-focused global ideas agency), revealed that “sixty-one percent of millennials think social media is the “new power of youth,” and 70 percent consider it a force for change.”[2] In addition it was found that millennials consider ““the people, empowered by social media” a greater agent of change than politics — by a margin of more than two to one.” [3] In light of the Arab Spring revolutions there is an understanding of social media’s ability to mobilize individuals together and make change.

These following examples showcase just how millennials are using the technologies available to them to bring about change.

Anti-Corruption:

Global Youth Anti-Corruption (GYAC) is a global network of young leaders, journalists, artists and ICT experts from civil society who have joined together to fight corruption in their countries for better governance. The Network provides a platform for its members to share experiences, ideas and resources via an online social network, video conferences, and face-to-face events. GYAC also works with musicians to create global songs against corruption and supports journalists in their fight for greater transparency and accountability.

To learn more visit Voices Against Corruption

Influencing Policy:

In Lativa, two 23-year-olds who were frustrated by their inability to participate in the political process used a grant from the U.S. State Department to built an e-petition system where Latvians could submit and support proposals for new laws and other political changes. The government agreed to look seriously into any petition that got a certain amount of popular support on the platform, and it’s been used by at least 20% of the Latvian population

The following is a video done by the Guardian in which the Latvian Minister of Foreign Affairs talks about the petition.

Social Accountability and Transparency:

Youth are using their digital skills to inform and inspire. They monitor the quality of public services with interactive tools, make official data available online and mobilize their peers through digital platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

In the Philippines youth created an interactive website – checkmyschool.org – allows students to evaluate public schools across the country. In addition, the site permits users to contest official data via Facebook, Twitter and text messages.

The following video showcases the work of  Check My School in the Philippines.

Information Technology :

The Tech Age Girls (TAG) program is designed with the fundamental belief that economic development and women’s empowerment are closely related goals. The program tries to address the systemic underrepresentation of women in the information technology (IT) fields. It does this by developing skills of young female leaders through specialized IT training, equips young women with technical and professional skills as well as leadership training. Furthermore it promotes the online presence of girls’ voices  in local languages in order for them to have greater opportunities to be a part of public discussions.

Click here to learn more about Tag.

Digital Networks:

Global Changemakers is a global youth network of social entrepreneurs, community activists and advocates between the ages of 16 and 25. The network is a platform to for like-minded youth to come together and exchange skills, contacts, opportunities in order to push for positive social change.  In addition they meet at global and regional conferences to learn from experts in the field, exchange ideas, and represent the concerns of youth with regards to different policies.

Check out the projects created by Global Changemakers around the world.


[1] Kumar, Ravi. “Social Media and Social Change: How Young People Are Tapping into Technology.” Youthink Blog. The World Bank, 14 Jan. 2013. Web. 6 Mar. 2013.

[2] “Millennials: The Challenger Generation.” http://www.prosumer-report.com/. Havas Worldwide, July 2012. Web. 06 Mar. 2013. <http://blogs.worldbank.org/youthink/social-media-and-social-change-how-young-people-are-tapping-technology&gt;.

[3] Ibid.

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