Leveraging youth’s vision of data for the SDGs




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In the digital age, data has become a powerful tool that shapes decision-making, policy formulation, and global progress. As we navigate the intricate landscape of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), harnessing the potential of data, especially with the active participation of youth, is crucial to achieving these ambitious goals. This blog post delves into the intersection of youth, data governance, and the SDGs, highlighting the role that young people play in shaping a sustainable future through informed and data-driven actions.

The SDGs serve as a roadmap for building a more equitable, just, and sustainable world. Data plays a pivotal role in tracking progress and ensuring effective policy implementation. From indicators measuring poverty rates and gender equality to carbon emissions and access to clean water, data provides the necessary insights to determine whether we are on track to meet the goals by 2030. This is where the role of youth comes into play.

The Power of Youth

Youth have diverse experiences and ideas about data policy issues – from how the data that is being collected about them affects their mental health to how that same data could be a powerful tool to address climate change. Young people are key stakeholders in shaping our data future. Not only are they being affected by the policy decisions made related to data, but they are also one of the main users of data-driven technologies. Yet, youth are hardly represented in the key centers of power where decisions are being made and it is urgent to close that gap and incorporate youth’s experiences into the development of data policy and technology.

With growing digitalization, young people are one of the most connected populations nowadays. By using social media platforms, online campaigns, and innovative data visualization techniques, young activists can translate complex data into relatable narratives that inspire action. Young people deeply care about several SDGs and are leading initiatives seeking to materialize the SDGs. From projects to advance gender equality in cybersecurity, to initiatives fostering green skills to fight climate change, youth-led initiatives are advocating for and imagining a more sustainable future. There is thus a need for youth’s voices to be heard and amplified in global policy-making forums.

Youth’s diverse perspectives, innovative approaches, and transformative projects need a platform not only to be seen and recognized but to also support in shaping a more equitable and sustainable data future for all. To that end, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and partners from the United Nations system and beyond are running a Youth Consultation on the occasion of SDG Digital Day. Young people (18-29 years old) are invited to contribute their thoughts and ideas for the consultation (survey) in the lead-up to SDG Digital Day on 17 September 2023 for SDG Digital Day in New York.

In an aligned effort, at the Datasphere Initiative, we recently launched the #Youth4OurDataFuture project, a project seeking to leverage youth’s voices for a more equitable data future. We have been working with incredible organizations, youth advocates, and young people from across the world to build a campaign where diverse youth voices are heard, represented, and leveraged, and we launched a video competition to collect youth’s vision around data. One of the key topics being discussed with youth is how they envision data – personal and non-personal – being leveraged to materialize the SDGs.

Fostering data literacy and skills

Data is one of the most powerful resources and tools that we have nowadays. Within data, there is power to better understand our society’s most pressing issues and design better solutions to address them. Equipping youth with the skills and tools to use data to solve the issues that matter most to them is fundamental.

Educational institutions and community organizations can play a role in providing training that enables young people to understand and interpret data effectively. With the ability to critically analyze data, youth can contribute to evidence-based decision-making and offer innovative solutions to complex challenges. 

At the same time, education on data governance is key for young people to voice their concerns on society’s issues and work to shape a data future where the value of data can be unlocked for all. As several youth advocates highlighted in the Datasphere Initiative’s International Youth Day campaign, equipping young people with data and data governance knowledge gives them the power to navigate today’s digital and data-driven world with more awareness and understanding. Data literacy is hence pivotal to ensuring that youth can actively engage and advocate for a more sustainable future and advance the SDGs.

In essence, fostering data literacy and analytical skills among youth is not just an educational goal; it is an investment in the future. These skills not only prepare young individuals for the demands of a data-driven workforce but also empower them to be active, informed, and influential members of society who can make a meaningful impact on the world’s most pressing issues.

The Road Ahead: Engaging and Amplifying Youth Voices

The Sustainable Development Goals represent a global vision for a better future, and data is the compass guiding us toward that future. Youth have a critical role to play in leveraging data and advocating for responsible data governance to achieve these goals. By fostering data literacy, demanding accountability, and engaging in collaborative efforts, young people can help shape a more sustainable and equitable world.

We need to open up the space for young people to share their vision, start conversations around data, and advocate for their vision of a more sustainable and equitable future. Youth-led initiatives can provide insights on how to power the SDGs with data that might otherwise go unnoticed. Specific challenges can be identified and addressed and innovative ideas can be incorporated by actively involving young people in gathering data about their communities, in policy decisionmaking, and in the design of data-driven technologies. This participatory approach not only gives power back to youth but also ensures that policies and interventions are tailored to their needs.

Learn more about the #Youth4OurDataFuture project and join the video competitionIf you want to discuss how to engage in this project or other Datasphere Initiative’s projects, reach out to us at [email protected]

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