UN-HABITAT encouraged youth at the Global Forum on Youth and ICT for Development in Geneva to come up with new information and communication solutions to help young people in cities.
UN-HABITAT's workshop on Youth ICTs and Urbanization focused on how information and communication technologies can help solve priority problems of youth in cities. Half of the world's population currently lives in cities and of these, one billion live in slums or informal settlements. Around 50 per cent of the one billion urban poor are young and face huge problems of unemployment, poverty and poor health. Youth also suffer more than other age groups as victims and perpetrators of crime.
UN-HABITAT encouraged youth to come up with novel solutions to address the problems that they face in cities. As an example, the agency cited its three day online forum, the Habitat JAM, which gathered ideas from over 70,000 young people around the world to ensure that their voices were heard at 2006 World Urban Forum in Vancouver, which was attended by some 10,000 policy and decision makers.
In the lively exchange at the ICT workshop, it was suggested that access to ICT should be recognized as a basic service by ensuring that all new housing incorporates wiring for Internet connectivity, together with the electricity and water supply. In poor countries where telecommunications infrastructure is still under-developed, radio, television and mobile phones were recognized as important tools of communication for youth to get their messages out and to engage their local and national governments. Concern was expressed by some that the Internet was eroding culture and traditional skills, but there was general agreement that the technology offered huge benefits as long as care was taken to introduce measures to minimise the negative aspects if the Internet.
Important applications identified by the workshop included use of ICTs for training so that youth can gain access to employment, and e-governance applications that allow youth to network and collectively develop ideas which they present to leaders to ensure that urban development and management strategies take into account youth issues.
Indeed, the UN-HABITAT's One Stop Youth Centre programme is a good example of encouraging youth in cities to contribute to city strategies. Under this programme which is being piloted in Nairobi, Kenya, youth gather to talk about problems that affect them such as unemployment, HIV infection and crime, and collectively, they propose new strategies for addressing these problems. This and other similar initiatives that ensure that the priorities of youth are heard by politicians and policy makers are yielding results. The city of Nairobi has recently established a separate Youth and Children department while the government of Kenya has developed a National Youth Policy. Similar models in slum areas are helping the young access community development funds to improve their living conditions.