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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