What does it means to be part of a youth programme?

  • News
  • 29/06/2016
  • Kimberly Anastácio (Youth representative)

Here, Brazilian researcher Kimberly Anastácio recounts how she got involved in the youth internet governance movement, and tells of how it has helped shape her subsequent career and opportunities.

I had the most cathartic experience of all my twenty-one years last year during the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). A small group of youngsters from Latin America had a Q&A moment with Vint Cerf, an engineer often regarded as the 'Father of the internet', to debate internet governance challenges. My mind was blown away. The topics we discussed were all important, but it was not the content of our conversation that really touched me. In fact, what touched me was a strong feeling that my fellows and I were there in that moment representing a generation that has much to learn and to share.
 
I was able to attend the IGF through a scholarship programme, the Youth@IGF, provided by the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI.br) and Internet Society (ISOC) with the support of organisations such as Insafe. Initially, 126 young representatives were selected to attend an online course and forum discussions on internet governance. After this preparation phase, 73 young people who were most active were selected to go to the IGF.
 
The experience could not be more enriching. We lived in the same continent, but were all from different realities and cultures. Most of us could only speak in Portuguese or Spanish. Even so, we managed to collaborate in the creation of a Youth Declaration, a statement to be released during the Forum. There, we stated for everyone loud and clear: "We, the youth of Latin American and the Caribbean, want to resignify the internet as a plural space and tool, oriented to the empowerment and participation, where the diversity of voices that characterise our region are present".
 
One of our mottos, as part of the Youth@IGF Programme, was that we, the youth, were not the future like many say. We were already there, present in the IGF exposing what was on our minds and trying to impact the internet governance environment. We did not take for granted this motto. Shortly after the Forum, we created the Youth Observatory, a space for dialogue and cooperation on internet-related topics. Today, we are an ISOC Special Interest Group and we have tons of plans for the future on what we can do to improve the internet ecosystem.
 
Thus, I can say that being part of the Youth Programme was a milestone for me. By that time, I was twenty years old and had just graduated from college. My mind was full of ideas and the youth experience guided my career, showing me that it is possible to influence important things like internet governance despite being young. Today, I am a researcher on governance models and activist in the Beta Institute for Internet and Democracy. I was also invited to be a tutor in this year's Youth Programme during the Brazilian version of IGF, using my experience as a former participant to help other youngsters learn and exchange ideas.
 
Another consequence of my involvement with the Youth@IGF was my attendance at an Insafe webinar where I could talk about my experience with young people from all over Europe. Our dialogue was impressive. I felt I could really connect with the European youth as they presented what they believe are important values for internet usage. We all think differently, but I saw in that moment many convergence points between what the young Europeans regarded as important topics and what we are discussing in Latin America. In the end, we are all youth and we all should conquer space to influence our surroundings. That is why this webinar and initiatives like the Youth@IGF are so important. We should train young people and give them space to participate and contribute in a well-informed way in internet governance discussions.
 
Youth might be the future as we are the ones who will occupy positions of leadership in the years to come. However, we can start now to change things according to our ideas. In fact, we are already doing so and the Youth Observatory is a great example of that. Hence, the outcomes of capacity-building programmes for young people are far more profound than to simply raise awareness on how the internet works. These programmes are empowering the youth and then letting them mould the internet reality.
 
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Better Internet for Kids Portal, European Schoolnet, the European Commission or any related organisations or parties.
 
About the author of this article:
Kimberly Anastácio is a Brazilian researcher on internet governance and a member of the Youth Observatory. She also collaborates with the Beta Institute for Internet and Society, a civil society organisation on human rights in the digital environment.

Related news

Can young people bring about better internet governance?

  • News
  • 29/06/2016
  • Anna Iosif (Youth representative)

In this article, Anna Iosif reflects on her recent experiences in attending the New Media Summer School and EuroDIG events, and asks whether young people can influence a better internet through involvement in internet governance discussions.