Last night Leila and I headed out to Google UK’s HQ for the launch of the Young Foundation‘s report about using digital technology to help engage young people in social action called ‘Plugged in, untapped‘.
Apart from my excitement of being inside the Google office (note to self and others, this is the COOLEST office in the world, they have a mobile ice cream van!) I was really interested in exploring whether digital technology could offer a more cost effective model of engagement in developing young people’s capacity and inclination to participate in society.
The event was opened by Tim Loughton (the Under Secretary of State for Children and Families) before proceeding to a panel debate with Sonia Livingstone (professor of media at LSE), Sarah Hunter (head of public policy at Google UK), Will Perrin (Talk About Local) and Paul Miller (School of Everything) which was chaired by Geoff Mulgan (Director, Young Foundation).
So what did we learn?
I took away some key points from the discussion and the report that I think are key for the development of young people’s engagement with the Big Society agenda:
- It is important that online engagement is backed up with participation in the real world
- Technology is not an end in its self, the quality of experience and content is the key to successful engagement
- The internet must remain open to support our democracy – data is an important tool for citizens as we begin to flex the muscles developed by the Freedom of Information legislation
- The internet has the power to change the fabric of society in the same way that the advent of cars changed our world, not just by allowing people to travel but by leading to the creation of surburbia, caravanning etc.
With my citizenship hat on, I think there is a greater need to prepare young people for engagement in this world – this is not just by developing ICT skills but by developing skills to engage in digital spaces.
How can we help young people to be effective activists in a digital world? What are the skills needed to be an effective member of a forum? How do young people develop the skills to use the influx of data to lobby for better services in their local communities? Are their digital literacy skills that should be included in the citizenship curriculum?