SURVEY: Where did Internet Governance literacy begin?

A few weeks ago, I finally received my Certificate of Completion from the NetMission Academy. As I was gawking at this digital documentation which acknowledged that I had indeed completed the training sessions held through webinars once a week for the last 3 months, I was overwhelmed with this feeling of achievement and pride. The academy had taught me how important it was to address the issues surrounding Internet Governance, especially challenges regarding human rights online, policy, digital tools, accessibility and empowerment, as well as cybersecurity and how we can make the Internet safer. At the age of 24, I – a post grad student who hadn’t heard of the term “Internet Governance” until last year at a conference – can now pompously claim to be knowledgeable in this subject. It was then, as I was overwhelmed,  I had an epiphany which begged me to ask the question:

If Internet Governance is so significant in the world today 
due to more people having access to the Internet,
then why aren’t we teaching it as a subject in secondary schools,
at least on a grassroots level?

Youth (ages 15–24), as recognized by the United Nations, is the most connected age group. Worldwide, 71 per cent are online compared with 48 per cent of the total population. We have talked extensively about youth leadership and empowerment in Internet Governance, and how the next generation leaders play a crucial role in connecting the next billion where individual efforts and approach matters. Moreover, how we develop the core values and how the new leaders will implement and engage towards creating better awareness and capacity building is what the fundamental concept of empowerment completely depends upon. At present, there are numerous fellowships available from various internet organizations which give youth a chance to attend a variety of internet related events. These initiatives are great and I can vouch for them because I was fortunate to be a recipient of the Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) Fellowship Program last year during the APNIC48 Conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand. And it was in this conference in which the fraternity of Internet Governance was first revealed to me. So, I’m grateful and I absolutely understand the role these fellowships play in getting the youth interested in Internet Governance. 

However, not everyone has the privilege of obtaining these fellowships. So, does this mean that the advocacy of Internet Governance is only limited to the lucky ones who make the cut? If only these youth could engage at grassroots level, say during their years in secondary school, the impact could be great in terms of awareness and capacity building. Unfortunately, that is not the case. In fact, in schools, these subjects are often left to the initiative of self-taught teachers. Internet Governance and related topics are not even part of the basic curriculum because the decision-making bodies for education do not completely understand them. As a result, they are blended with language courses instead, which makes it difficult to evaluate them. The closest we’ve gotten to having Internet Governance in education was during the India School on Internet Governance (inSIG), in 2016, where there were discussions on introducing Internet Governance as a subject in schools. It has been a few years since then and there still hasn’t been any attempt to add to the school curriculums in the region.

To Read more about the initiative to introduce 
Internet Governance as a subject in schools - Click Here

SURVEY | APRIL 2020 by Pavel Farhan

However, the verdict remains the same – there is close to no exposure of the youth to Internet Governance when they are going through their secondary education. Only 0.8%, which was just one responder, who replied to the survey saying that they learnt about Internet Governance while in school, not because it was taught as a course, but because of her participation in an external internet governance competition. 

With that said, I believe the future of education should be part of the global debate on Internet governance. We’ve made it through a digital transition already, where we went from traditional schooling in the past to now, in the present, where youth are utilizing information and communication technology (ICT) as support tools. I would like to argue that it’s now time to pick it up a notch and start teaching the youth from a younger age about Internet Governance. This new field can be integrated into the school curriculum as a key discipline which can also nurture their human rights and understanding of shared values, which, in turn, will help to build more inclusive societies. It’s high time we move past the current “protected” status that we entail to youth in schools and instead start teaching them early on how their active participation in Internet governance can empower them to become actors in policy deliberations.

In the next blog under Internet Governance in Education, I’d like to talk about the importance of protecting the digital youth. It’s true that digital technology has already changed the world, but as more and more youth go online around the world, it is increasingly changing the way the Internet should be perceived. Is the Internet a boon to humankind, offering unlimited opportunity for communication and commerce, learning and free expression? Or is it a threat to our way of life, undermining the social fabric, even the political order, and threatening our well-being? And finally – regardless of what the Internet is or can become, what should we be teaching the youth so that they are able to use the Internet judiciously?

Author BIO

Pavel Farhan

Pavel Farhan

Pavel is currently a postgraduate student in the field of ICT who aspires to become an advocate of ICT for development (ICT4D) in order to empower and help minority groups get their share of access to the Internet, while also trying to close the gap between the gender and generational digital divides as much as possible. He has been engaged with Y4IG Outreach, has been a fellow of APNIC48 & APAN49, is a NetMission Ambassador, and also ICANN68 NextGen participant.

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