SEEDIG 2016 – internet governance in South Eastern Europe

  • News
  • 29/06/2016
  • Auke Pals (Youth representative)

Auke Pals, 19, is a part-time high school student, a member of the Dutch Digital Youth Council, and a youth representative of European Digital Youth. Here, he reflects on his attendance at SEEDIG – the South Eastern Europe Dialogue on Internet Governance – and his ability to contribute to internet governance issues as a young European citizen.

Belgrade, Serbia was the location the second edition of SEEDIG (South Eastern Europe Dialogue on Internet Governance) in April 2016. SEEDIG is a sub-event of EuroDIG (the pan-European dialogue on internet governance), focussed specifically on the South Eastern European countries, initiated to promote a better understanding of internet governance across that region. Participants represented every stakeholder group recognised in the world of internet governance: governments, intergovernmental organisations, civil society, academia, the private sector and the technical community. Within civil society, the youth stakeholder group is growing, developing and trying to be more active. However, the difficulty with youth attendance is that they are typically dependant on sponsorships or travel support, so it's a good thing to see that more youngsters with some knowledge about the culture and topics are taking part in the discussions.
 
The South East part of Europe has developed differently compared to the Western part, possibly down to the border changes and the different ways the region is governed. This part of history got my attention immediately right in the first session which addressed the question: ‘Who governs the internet in SEE?'. The thing that struck me was the fact that a large proportion of the audience agreed on the government having control over the internet and this came across many times during the course of the session. This conflicted with my opinion; having the population within a democracy and the users of several services in indirect control. If the population doesn't agree to certain measures, they'll vote by means of a referendum or against the way of ruling and policy making at the next elections. And users can shift from one web service to another because of the high levels of competition in the global market. For me, the internet is governed through collaboration by the stakeholders: the multistakeholder model in which all stakeholders try working together to achieve the best outcome for all parties.
 
I was happy to see that freedom of, and access to, information was addressed in the sessions ‘Bridging digital divide(s) with a #SEEchange in digital literacy' and the last session titled ‘Come and solve the human rights puzzle with us'. These two issues have a lot in common... isn't it a human right to have access to information and express yourselves online in the same way as offline? We therefore need to ensure that we can connect people through the internet in even better ways than we can connect them offline, for example avoiding travel, health and other possible issues. Regrettably, this is not yet possible due to technical and/or political influences.
 
The internet governance community is really open for youngsters: participants take you seriously, and the whole internet governance community is very approachable positioning you as an equal. The important thing to remember is not to be shy and just speak up if you feel the urge to!
 
SEEDIG 2016 was a great success and I think it should be kept as a regional internet governance forum. And I hope that more youngsters will be involved in the future, both in the SEE region and the internet governance agenda more generally.
 
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:
Auke Pals, 19, is a part-time high school student, a member of the Dutch Digital Youth Council, and a youth representative of European Digital Youth.
 
Auke has always had a keen interest in computers, the internet, and new and upcoming trends. Since his childhood he has been eager to learn, always striving to learn new things: computers and the internet gave him the opportunity to fulfil his needs. He has always admired the opportunities the internet has to offer: connecting people, connecting businesses, and making communication smart and quick.
 
At the age of 12, Auke started helping those less computer literate than himself with small problems. This is something he has continued doing, ranging from helping the elderly and younger people, to smaller local companies, and now bigger companies exploring new functions for services. At the moment he is advising one of the biggest companies in The Netherlands, designing systems to increase the overall productivity of processes.

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Why media and information literacy matters?

  • News
  • 29/06/2016
  • María José Velasquez Flores (Youth representative)

In this article, María José Velasquez Flores gives her views on why media and information literacy matters for young people, and why they should be encouraged to contribute to internet governance debates on such issues.