Commentary | June 01, 2011

Young People for Cybersecurity

On May 31, the EastWest Institute held the International Youth Congress on Digital Citizenship in London, bringing together dozens of young people with government, business and technical leaders to discuss solutions to universal Internet woes.

At the event, local students participating in Global Cyber Ambassadors for Peace (GCAP), a collaboration with UNESCO and the E-World-Wide Group, spoke about problems ranging from distracting pop-up ads to serious risks posed by pedophiles on social networking sites.

“The Internet allows a rapid and widespread distribution of false and misleading information,” Muaaz Patel, 14, pointed out.

Young people should take a leading role in developing and solving problems associated with broadband applications, as they often know more about them than their parents, said Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union Hamadoun Touré in his keynote address. He added, “Young people will be expected to help shoulder the responsibility for transforming the Wild Wild West of the online world into a civil society.”

GCAP students and participating Girl Scouts suggested practical solutions for self-protection online and guidelines for respectful behavior, including exercising caution in sharing passwords, posting photographs and disclosing addresses and other personal information.

Participants also explored the particular problems faced by youth in the developing world, where Internet availability is still lagging and education in “digital literacy” also has to catch up.  One panel considered the complexities of the Internet as a tool for social change.

“Technology is allowing people to participate in a democratic platform in a way that was never before possible,” said Mark Belinsky of Digital Democracy. Still, he said, technology cuts both ways, as demonstrated by the jailing of a prominent digital activist in Egypt during the protests there.

Participants will consider these issues and more in smaller “classroom” discussions this afternoon.

The Youth Congress grew out of EWI’s Worldwide Cybersecurity Initiative, which works across borders and boundaries to secure the world’s digital infrastructure.

“It is essential to include young people in discussions around these issues and recognize that they too have a key role in securing the digital economy,” said EWI Co-Chairman Francis Finlay.

The Youth Congress’s main recommendations will be shared at the Second Worldwide Cybersecurity Summit in London on June 1-2.

Click here for coverage on the work of Digital Citizenship Founder John Kluge, Jr.