Focus on Youth and ICTs in Geneva

(c) GAID Website

The Forum on Youth and ICTs, co-hosted by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID), opened in Geneva this morning and will hold until the 26th of September. Guided by the theme “Youth and ICT as Agents of Change”, the Forum is being organized in partnership with United Nations agencies and organizations, youth organizations and networks, and civil society and private sector organizations. The organizers expect that there will be about 400 to 600 young people, as well as ICT for Development policy-makers and practitioners from all sectors and regions.

I arrived Geneva in the early hours of Sunday (September 23) and spent the rest of the day in meetings, preparing for the opening session — which I’m co-moderating with TakingITGlobal’s Jennifer. The opening session started a few minutes ago and I hope to post as many updates as possible on this blog. For those who are here in Geneva, please visit the Paradigm Initiative Nigeria stand at the Exhibition Hall to see images and some materials from the recently concluded first phase of the project. Thanks to Ugo, who put finishing touches to the project report and Kafui (my Ghanaian twin) who helped with the physical setup here in Geneva.

I look forward to the exciting networking meetings, great discussions (ITU Youth Fellow’s projects, GAID Youth Social Technopreneurship session, etc) and trust that the reunion will also offer the opportunity to advance the thoughts and actions that came out of the earlier Geneva WSIS discussions. It is great to see that the young people who spent a lot of time lobbying government groups during WSIS are now showcasing action which they have been able to execute on the ground — in their respective countries. I’ll be showing the video on one of the evenings and also look forward to the meeting with the First Lady of Egypt where we’ll be discussing with her on her Foundation’s Cyber Peace Initiative.

Where Will You Be on October 1, 2007?

The years preceding the return of democracy in Nigeria presented the picture of a country in decline. Nigeria barely existed as a geographical space. There was a gross absence of political cohesion. The only instrument that seemed to bind the country was the economy and occasionally the game of football.

Every department depended on the economy, which was run solely on sales from crude oil. Very little thought was spared for the country and her future generations. There was little or no concern for the economy, in terms of allowing it to regenerate itself. It suffered all manner of plundering, leaving it fallow and unattractive.

There was decay in government agencies and parastatals. Public utilities such as NEPA, railway, airways, refineries, steel companies and others were operated without any hope for the future. Leaders who foisted themselves on the people, turned out to be looters of public treasury, thus making nonsense of the idea of a country thereby staining the Green-White-Green flag of the nation.

The Way forward

The need for a paradigm shift necessitated the idea of a national seminar/ talk shop to contribute to national development, to discuss and suggest ways out of the comatose described above, ‘Jide Adeyemi, a young passionate Nigerian, saw the need and took the lead by initiating the Dirty-Green-White-Green talk shop.The seminar that will bring together young and old Nigerians under the same roof to discuss the Nigerian Project. The project communique will be sent to goverment quaters and published in national dailies.

Speakers Include:
Charles O’Tudor- Rebranding Nigeria
‘Gbenga Sesan- A New Nigeria
Sunday Folayan- Opportunities in Nigeria
Adeolu Akinyemi- Living the Nigerian Dream
Bayo Adeoshun- Marketing Nigeria
Jide Adeyemi- Redeeming the Dirty Green White Green

Date- 1st October, 2007
Venue- O’jez Restauarant Hall, National Stadium, Surulere, LAGOS
Time- 9.00 am prompt (as in 9 for 9am)

Special Recognition of Mr Taiwo Akinkunmi (The man that designed the Nigerian Flag)
Mr Akinkunmi who had remained a hero without honour in spite of his contribution to the branding of the nation through his design that was accepted as the national flag. He will be at the event to receive an award for contribution to national development.

Entertainment- To pep up the event in the mood of the 47th independence anniversary, their will also be music + comedy.

See you on on independence day in an attire with a shade of green and white.

God Bless Nigeria!


‘Jide Adeyemi

Changing Africa from Oxford?

My room at the Egrove Park

There’s no First Lady attending this workshop so I can take pictures… 🙂

A few minutes ago, I arrived at Egrove Park (Oxford’s Said Business School’s executive education centre) at the same time with two other colleagues for the second phase of the Archbishop Tutu Fellowship (ATF) workshop. We’ll be here for the next five days before moving to London for another 4 days of work, and we were yet to settle down into our rooms when one of my colleagues asked, “How’s your group doing with your scenarios?” That brought me back to the reality of the work we are here to do, right in the middle of my admiration for this excellent centre. The Egrove Park is situated in 37 acres of parkland 2 miles from the centre of Oxford city. My welcome pack calls the facility “a place to think” and “… a specialist executive centre [that] understand[s] the needs and priorities of executives.”

Of course, my first question was to know how much it would cost to stay online, but I couldn’t ignore the loud title of the Summer 2007 edition (issue 11) of the Said Business School magazine, Business at Oxford. With the bold headline, “Beyond the Bottom Line,” and an eye-catching image on the cover, I couldn’t resist the urge to turn the pages. The Dean’s Preface (by Colin Mayer) speaks about “market pressures… [being] reconciled with social and environmental concerns” as the issue “explores some of the ways [such reconciliation] is happening.” Steve Coomber also drove home the point (in his Caveat Venditor! article) when he said, “[a] company that successfully positions itself as more socially responsible than its competitors can gain a powerful competitive advantage in the marketplace.” Is anyone from a Nigerian corporation reading this? I’m not sure I’ll be able to read every word in the magazine but some topics such as Not Just for Profit, The Power of One, China’s Green Revolution, Beyond the Business Card and Surfing the Web 2.0 Wave can’t escape my visual probe.

While this trip seeks to fit about four objectives (NBC Conference, ATF workshop, visit to University of London and seeing my UK-based friends) into one, the next few days will be spent on the ATF workshop where the focus includes personal reflection, project reports, scenario planning and discussions. At the April ATF workshop in Cape Town, each fellow was required to write a personal letter to him/herself stating what should be accomplished between that time and this September workshop — and I look forward to reading my own letter and comparing notes on how well I’ve done plus how I can improve on my goal attainment index (GAI). We’ll also be giving feedback on the community projects that we have done between April and September, as one of the key requirements of the fellowship; for which I have two interesting projects ( and to discuss. I also look forward to the discussions on African Leadership, which is a central objective of the fellowship program; and, of course, the group reports on the Scenario Planning exercise that we started from the Cape Twon workshop. My group looked at four possible outcomes and I guess I should share an earlier draft of some form of poetic expression of the four scenarios we consider as Africa’s possible future pathways:

1. Things Fall Apart Scenario

Noise in the city
Chaos under our roof
The times have gone sour
Our pain knows no boundary

Africa, what is this?
We cursed the past…
But even this new day;
We can not but wear rags

Things fall apart
Where is the centre of existence
We kill our own
And the strangers also burden us

Held under captivity
By the land from the East
Africa knows itself no more
Her people now speak a strange language

The yokes are heavy
And no help shows afar
Tell me, Africa:
Why are we here today?

2. Divide and Rule Scenario

Our yards stink and make us sick
But the neighbour is friendly
We know not where to go
Even though the stranger brings fruits

We asked them to show us the way
But they took our gold and silver
Lead us, we told our own brothers
And all we got was the cane!

They are not with us
But even though come against us they did not
The sign is clear:
They have chosen to divide and rule

With our hands tied by our own
We approach our supposed help
And what do we get?
Even the neighbours cheat us!

3. Dry Pipes or Hungry Chefs Scenario

We went to bed rejoicing
But the mourning comes with mourning
Our labours are gone
They oppress us on our own soil

The pipes that bear the fluid
Have all gone dry
The chefs that carve the dishes
Are extremely hungry

What state is this?
How did we walk this path?
Why do we sit bent?
Who will help us out of here?

Our land flows with plenty
But our sweat fills their calabash
And the pains of our blood
Trims the edge of their gold.

4. Jabulani Africa Scenario

Light has become day
And the tears have dried up
Our sons and daughters
Are within the walls of our glory

The richness of our culture
Becomes the light that others seek
Those who called us dark
Have come to meet our light

Africa shows the way
Ubuntu, we are because others are!
The kings rule and the people rejoice
Our land is green again

Friends, good friends, the world to us
East, West, South, North… friends all
They rejoice at the sight
Of abundance on our soils

Watching and waiting over
This land is flourishing…
Africa has come of age
Jabulani Africa! Viva Africa!

We hope that the Jabulani Africa scenario will be Africa’s true story by 2030, but that depends on the actions that we (yes, you and I) take today. So, which will it be?

The Boundary in My Head

It’s 5:53am in Sharm and I’m hungry. I wish I didn’t take that nap before dinner because I’m sure that’s why I’m yet to say goodnight (and it’s already time to say good morning. I can as well finish up the entry about the session where I spoke earlier today.

First, I should share the session’s details, as it appeared in the event program:

Session 2C—Building Bridges across Geographical Boundaries—Roundtable
September 1, 2007, 14:30–16:30
Bibliotheca Alexandrina Hall

Walda Roseman, International Telecommunication Union Youth Forum and CEO, Compass Rose International

Jennifer Corriero, Head of Taking IT Global
Mahmoud Shalaby, Computer Engineering Student, Cairo University
Hanan Ouna, International Telecommunication Union Youth Forum
‘Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria

Session Description:
Empathy is necessary for the cultivation of peace. However, cultural, geographic, religious, economic, linguistic and political challenges hinder development and understanding. ICT platforms and content that overcome these gaps create possibilities for reconciling youth with local, regional and international markets and help encourage their political participation. Therefore, it’s crucial to explore opportunities offered by ICT applications and platforms and the best practices developed by youth worldwide.

The session explores how ICTs have effectively helped young people talk to each other, in spite of the language, time, distance and culture barriers, and as such, change perceptions and stereotypes. This session assesses the effectiveness of ICT in bridging cultural and political barriers. In addition, it will discuss the reasons why some ICT solutions failed and others succeeded, how to fund applications and platforms in ICT, some of the most successful sustainable solutions, the value of the platforms without the content, and how to aggregate to create the content in order to develop the most effective means for promoting peace through ICT.

Walda Roseman started off the sesison with a unique opening, where we had a unique icebreaker that had everyone saying Peace be unto you to a few others before returning to their seats. She introduced two guests who were present at the session — Dr. Toure, the Secretary general of the International Telecommunications Union, and Egypt’s Minister for Communication and Information Technology. She then introduced the speakers and they all got busy. Mahmoud Shalaby, a Computer Engineering student at Cairo University opened the floor with his focus on the role that ICTs play in the promotion of peace and elimination of boundaries. Jennifer Corriero, the inspiring head of TakingITGlobal (TIG) shared thoughts on the practical steps that TIG takes — and is taking around the promotion of peace through ICTs. Hanan Ouna, a 2006 Youth Fellow of the International Telecommunication Union Youth Forum focused on the exciting activities of alumni of the ITU Youth Fellowship program.

I spoke about The Boundary in My Head and told my personal story about how ICTs helped change my story from the curious boy who was told that “computers are not for people like you, you can’t understand how to operate it,” to one who now travels the world teaching the role of ICTs (not just computers) in development. I challenged the audience to consider themselves privileged and to take on the assignment of taking the message of the power of ICTs to the other 1.2 billion (plus) youth who are presently disconnected from such opportunities. I argued that we would never achieve peace while individuals have war in their lives, and that the biggest boundary is usually in the head. Circumstances, people, teachers, etc, often place boundaries in innocent oung heads but it is the responsibility of each person to remove that barrier and be desperate enough to transform their lives through unique opportunities such as the one ICTs provide.

Dr. Toure was invited to make a statement after my presentation, and he spoke about the role of the ITU in promoting the theme. He was evidently proud of the fact that the ITU Youth Program has produced a number of alumni who have made the institution proud by creating change in their communities. Walda then invited questions and invited the audience to ensure that the rest of the meeting was interactive. The following questions/comments were asked/made (and responded to), and it would be great to hear what readers think:

  • How do we ensure the efficient use of ICT tools that underserved youth have access to?
  • ICTs can also disrupt peace
  • How do we reach the critical mass of youth, possibly through appropriate curriculum review?
  • We need action, not words! And how do we create sustainable peace?
  • There is big trouble in Democratic Republic of Congo with respect to the availability of computers! How can youth get low cost PCs?
  • How can we drum up interest so that young people can see the need for ICTs in Liberia?
  • What best practices efforts are there for rural communities in the use of ICTs for development?
  • In a case where infrastructure is not a problem, how can we bridge the gap between ICTs and poverty eradication?
  • How do we jointly stand behind other regions of the world that need help? CSR should work better!
  • Old ICTs matter too! New ICTs are located in urban areas, how about rural areas? Youth must act!
  • There is a strong need for the localization of global best practices
  • How do we control information available on the Internet so that young people can be protected from violent content?
  • How can the media promote positive peace?
  • Are ICTs really needed? And what unique thing does ICT bring to the peace table?
  • Content is a major issue!

The session was interesting and very educative for me, and it also had a few surprises — especially meeting people who I’ve always been in touch with by eMail and never met in person. I wonder if I’m the only one who always seems to create a face for every eMail address I relate with. 🙂 The amazing Flamingo show came after the session, and it was a unique way to end the day — along with the dinner I almost missed.

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Safety on the Net

After discovering that mobile phones and cameras won’t be allowed into the venue of the forum (for security reasons, maybe), the first session started on a great note. Opening remarks by one youth representative from each region, a brief one by the first Egyptian to reach the summit of Mount Everest, a wonderful piece of art, a brief rousing speech by Suzanne Mubarak and a dynamic young host made the opening session really exciting. It was great to see Lisa, an ITU Youth Fellow, talking about the role of ICTs in positive peace (following some research work we did — along with 10 other youth from 9 other countries — in 2005).

I’m now at one of the breakout sessions, the one that focuses on “Safety on the Net.” It must be a topic quite close to Mrs Mubarak’s heart because she’s here — even though there are 2 other parallel sessions. A multilingual video is presently showcasing what young people think about the Internet — opportunities, problems, etc.

My session starts after lunch but if you’re not here in Sharm, you can download (or read) here.