A better world online and offline

This blog first appeared in G7G20. Ikuyo Sakai is a One Young World Ambassador and student at Keio University. She served as coordinator of the APRU Summer Internet Economy Seminar at the Keio University last summer and is passionate about internet privacy and societal issues.

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At the Opening Ceremony of the One Young World 2015 Bangkok Summit, Counsellor Professor Muhammad Yunus said:

“You represent a generation, which to my mind, is the most powerful generation in human history. Why is that? You are special not because you are smart; you are powerful because you are born in the age when all technology gives you enormous capacity. And that technology is changing every day, making you more powerful.”

I wondered at that moment how many people really understood the meaning of what he said. Internet and technology are indispensable products to life in the 21st century. They allow us to communicate with our family and friends, to share our great ideas and solutions, to empower minorities, to spread education, to make the world a better place.

In fact, a number of One Young World Ambassadors understand the potential that technology has and have used it to foster change in their local communities. Their projects range from providing technology to women and children in India, to helping refugees access free education online and get a university degree. It gives me great joy to see young individuals harnessing the potential of the internet to create change with resources not available to earlier generations.

However, the internet is not without its faults. This has led to international society discussing the issue of how to keep the internet open and safe for us all. Similarly, issues around copyright and privacy are hugely complex and consensus is often hard to reach. More importantly, the core of the issue, as I see it, lies with most of our networks being held in private hands. Examples of this can be seen in social media being used to promote terrorist causes, such as ISIS harnessing the openness of different sites to promote their own activities. Unfortunately, when governments do intervene in these cases, it is often to limit the freedom of speech across these networks.

My experiences in the field of internet governance, both as a student and working for the Keio University International Centre for Internet and Society, has helped me realise that we need to move the discussion forward. We need to encourage people to take an interest in what is going on in internet policy, what the real issues are and how we can use the internet more safely. It is therefore immensely important to encourage young leaders like One Young World Ambassadors to understand these issues. This will help them develop their social services not only in their home countries but also internationally. It would mean preparing them for both technical and social problems that might happen in the future.

By educating young leaders we can provide a better environment, in which other young leaders can start their own initiatives to make the world a better place. This means not only looking at the latest news about internet policy issues, but also looking at our society and our actions online. Rethinking what it means to live our social life online helps us to move the discussion about these problems forward. It would make cyberspace a safer and better place because we all contribute to the creation, spreading and future development of our cyberspace.