The internet of tomorrow in today's discussions – reflections on EuroDIG

  • Youth
  • 04/07/2018
  • João Pedro Martins, Youth Ambassador

In this article, João Pedro Martins, a BIK Youth Ambassador from Portugal, reflects on his recent experience in attending EuroDIG, the annual event of the pan-European dialogue on internet governance.

Multi-stakeholder meetings aim to raise awareness on hot topics relating to current and future issues on the internet, providing for active engagement from all, not only in terms of participation but also in the planning process of such events. This is of paramount importance for digital sustainability, although the approach may face several challenges.

In early June 2018, the 11th European Dialogue on Internet Governance (EuroDIG) took place in Tiblisi, the capital of Georgia. I was fortunate to able to travel to the beautiful venue to attend the meeting under a fellowship of the YouthDIG Programme, representing both the Insafe network of Safer Internet Centres (SICs) in Europe as a Better Internet for Kids (BIK) Youth Ambassador and the University of Coimbra as a current student of an informatics engineering degree. It was my first attendance at EuroDIG and the theme was "Innovative strategies for our digital future".

As far as experiences are concerned, I believe I had a great opportunity to learn and share points of view with other young people and experts. I participated as a panellist in two of the sessions, remote moderated on a topic I am passionate about (artificial intelligence (AI)), and I was also one of the voices of the youth conclusions on EuroDIG.

The YouthDIG Programme aimed to provide support and unity for youth participation in EuroDIG. In the two days prior to the main event, we met and discussed how to promote and improve youth participation while, at the same time, learning from Georgian examples and initiatives such as the Tech Park for Startups (GITA). On that specific case, we learnt how governments can step up and provide tools and support for disruptive technology development. As a concluding point of YouthDIG, messages on five topics were drafted, namely:

  • Accessibility
  • Digital literacy
  • An internet that works for everybody
  • Regulation of the internet, data privacy and legal protection against cybercrime
  • Digital inclusion.

On Day 0, I participated in a panel discussion about digital inclusion of silver surfers (read more at Don't forget silver surfers – Digital inclusion and literacy focused on seniors). This stakeholder group are not digital natives, so resistance is to be expected in transitioning to the new digital environment. That, associated with the lack of usability by design of much software and hardware, are what makes them more vulnerable and, at the same time, so important to bring this issue to debate. As the opposite generation, youth are more concerned with achieving their goals when using online services and accessing content than they are with the way they are doing it. This is also something that should be taken into account when shaping a digital strategy for inclusion.

On Day 1, it was time to speak about the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) Youth Ambassadors programme in a flash session on children's rights for a better internet. Broadly speaking, we have been defending ideas and opinions of young people by raising and developing strong arguments and taking the youth voice to where it should be heard, typically to governments, industry or other stakeholders. Some points were made during this session on how to motivate young people towards learning good digital habits, as well as how to bring parents and youth together in that process.

On the last day, it was time to facilitate a means of participation for those who were interested in contributing to the discussion about AI but were unable to attend the event, and so I took part as a remote moderator. One of the difficulties I had to overcome was when to present the arguments that people were sending me, as they were coming with the obvious delay of someone who is typing and reflecting on their comments. All in all, I think that being a remote moderator was a necessary task to fully understand the dimension of the event and these discussions, as we sometimes tend to forget those who are not present but still want to make a difference.

As far as youth messages are concerned, I believe we came up with strong points on best practices and emerging issues which need to be tackled. I was one of those conveying the conclusions we had reached at the close of EuroDIG; it was a great honour to make the youth voice heard.

For me, EuroDIG was all about the people who attended and the conclusions we reached after the various discussions. Looking forward, I seriously hope that these conclusions do not remain static, but that they instead travel the world and make the internet a better place. Many argued the need for a decision-making process within multi-stakeholder events such as EuroDIG, and I agree that a mechanism to follow the effectiveness of the best practices should be implemented at the very least. This way, we can move forward with the discussions, while also ensuring that governments and industry are more involved.

To sum up, I had an amazing time in Tiblisi. Not only did I have fun in getting to know a new country and culture, but I also learnt that the internet is indeed a network of networks that reflects just that. It is our job to keep promoting digital inclusion and literacy, fighting cybercrime and advocating for human rights, and assuring the robustness and accessibility of the internet, while never forgetting the important role my generation should play in shaping the internet of tomorrow… starting today!

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:

João Pedro is a 19-year-old computer engineering student at Coimbra's University. He has been a youth ambassador for about five years. Born in Portugal, he was one of the first members from outside Lisbon to join the youth panel of his national Safer Internet Centre (SIC). After attending a Safer Internet Forum (SIF) in Luxembourg in 2011 representing his country, he was invited to be a youth ambassador. Since then he has attended a number of seminars and, over the years, has had the opportunity both to share and learn about online safety issues, as well as to get to know a lot of interesting people from all around the world.

Young people's opinions are very important to him and he believes they should be taken into account by politicians and companies. That is why he is involved in several projects, most of them connected to youth participation in debates and decisions. In recent months, he has worked alongside his national Safer Internet Centre (SIC) organising lectures in local schools.

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EuroDIG 2018: "Innovative strategies for our digital future"

To foster Europeans' interest in internet governance issues and to ensure that a proper dialogue takes place on a regular basis and in a participatory manner, EuroDIG - the European Dialogue on Internet Governance - was established in 2008 as an open, multi-stakeholder platform as a key European point of reference on exchanging views about the internet and how it is governed. EuroDIG is not a conference, it is more of a year-round dialogue on politics and digitisation across the whole European continent, culminating in an annual event.