Digital is not about technology. It’s about change.
The ‘Young Mediterranean Voices’ Leadership Seminar is a space to shape external policies. It is coordinated by the Anna Lindh Foundation, co-founded by the British Council, funded by the European Commission and co-funded by the Government of Finland and World Bank Group. The event was organised in Malta by MEDAC through the relentless work of Ms. Lourdes Pullicino and Prof. Stephen Calleya.
During the event we touched on 4 key policy areas and analysed how technology enables change and influences policy in each;
- Sustainable Development and clean energy
- Youth Participation
- Mobility and Migration
Together with Greece’s former Prime Minister Dr. George Papandreou, I argued in favour of sensible technology-optimism and analysed how the technical dimension both inspires and supports the formulation of public policy.
Sustainable development and clean energy
In meeting the needs of the present generation, without compromising the ability of future ones to meet their own needs, the use of sensible technology-design approaches presents an important consideration. As humans, we have the choice to determine which technologies to develop and introduce to the market, and which not to implement at all.
Technical product design has – for many years – been focused on creating disposable objects (single-use plastics are a perfect example). Through notions of positive law, society can exercise control over which technologies are permitted to enter the marketplace by incentivising appropriate technologies rather than disposable ones. Here we should consider appropriate technology to be that which promotes sustainability and which gives due consideration to the ethical/cultural and economic aspects of production. From this perspective sustainability, product-design and ethics are tightly connected because we have agency over their development, prioritisation and implementation.
Youth Participation & Political Activism
Many initiatives to empower youth stem for within institutions themselves (often schools). However it is generally well-known that youth are moving away from formal institutions (religion, education, marriage and party politics )… so, is creating an empowerment program for youth within an institution a sensible idea?
Analysing the pattern of youth activism of the last decade, it is clear that its model is more akin to that of a startup: disruptive and fluid, rather than that of a hierarchical tuition program. This is not to say that formal didactic approaches to youth empowerment don’t work (indeed co-decision programs generally work well) but rather that they must be only part of the ideal mix. Over-structuring the program will make it run aground.
In the meantime, the family remains the core nucleus of democracy; the smallest unit of dialogue and dissent. A 2011 report by Christens & Peterson concluded that youth with greater family cohesion also tend to have higher levels of sociopolitical control, and these were in turn, more likely to report higher levels of self-esteem. Perhaps a decay of the family structure could be having a domino effect on the levels of youth-participation in the community.
50% of the jobs we are training young people for today will not exist when they enter the workforce. It’s a staggering reality which we need to battle with. The digital economy will create more demanding employers and today’s youth need to equip themselves with new skills to ascertain their spot:
- Global competences: soft skills in cross-cultural and global contexts which are not machine replaceable;
- Better transitional skills from the school-bench to boardroom which focus on agility and attainment of experience;
- Shifting from process-focused evaluations to outcome accountability;
- Better exposure to, and meaningful dialogues with, regional role models;
- More opportunities to exercise leadership, advocacy and entrepreneurship.
Shifting from our 19th century educational model (which assumes a sharp-end of the tuition cycle at age 22), to a lifelong learning approach is ideal. Just like a software license – we must allow the student to receive knowledge/skill ‘upgrades’ to remain relevant through the continuance of employment.
We must also reconsider who should be tasked with the job of ‘education’. Whilst Governments should undoubtedly regulate and participate in the process, it may be relevant to have some level of activity from; Not For Profit organisations, youth-led organisations and business itself. Voluntary organisations, in particular, can leverage their knowledge and proximity to the local community and build trust to educate and respond to local needs.
Mobility and Migration
The world is facing a shortage of about 200 million workers. China alone requires 25 million workers. However at the same time, sub-Saharan Africa’s workforce will double to 20% of the total global workforce, up 10% from the present number.
Short-term legal solutions to migration are very relevant (the management of humanitarian visas is a good example) however the long term vision may lie in economic development through sustained education and managed mobility. The uneven distribution of population-driven talent, and employment opportunities elsewhere, highlights how this global mismatch in supply and demand can be turned into an opportunity.
In the interim, right-wing, sensationalist expletives need to be better-managed. When at attack happens in the US it’s almost certain that the official narrative will polarise the domestic situation, appealing to a specific, impressionable demographic that in turn further suppresses migrants. When states discriminate against ethnic minorities who already suffer from common disadvantages, it is possible that such action increases susceptibility to radicalization. A self fulfilling prophecy originating from the skewed narrative then repeats itself.