Young and Wired
As technological innovation progresses at a rapid pace, it has become clear that the most responsive and engaged participants are youth: “the privileged vessels of change,” as Stephen Smith has put it. In so far as accountability goes, harnessing the power of the internet has proven effective and contagious among today’s youth. Blogs, networks, and social media platforms are connecting young people across the world and are allowing them to share ideas, projects, and experiences. Not only do these tools highlight the issues and provide methods to tackle them, they act as an international support system. For example, the Global Youth Anti-Corruption Network (GYAC) has brought together 55 different youth groups who work to improve transparency and accountability in over 45 countries through support for two main initiatives: Voices Against Corruption and Jeunesses Musicales International. The Lab was lucky enough to experience the energy and creativity of the GYAC network first-hand at the 3rd Global Voices Against Corruption Forum in Brazil recently.
Two young journalists who won the Center for International Private Enterprise’s 2011 International Youth Essay Competition provide excellent examples of the costs of corruption and how youth can mobilize for change. However, putting these words into action is the real challenge for today’s young people, as clearly it is in implementation that previous generations have failed. As 80% of the African population is expected to be mobile phone subscribers by next year, there has been an emergence of SMS campaigns that are doing just that. For example, Transparency International Zimbabwe recently launched a program through which “People will report on bribery, cheating and corruption through sending an SMS to 0775220700 at only 9 cents per message. The information will reach the Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALAC) who will pass the information to relevant authorities and recommend appropriate action against offenders.” The Accountability Lab is piloting a program called “TELL-it-True” on a university campus in Liberia to facilitate discussion of accountability among young people in a similar way.
As access to technology expands, youth are the ones jumping on board; sidestepping ingrained social hierarchies based on the principle of seniority along the way. Though the process of eroding social systems can cause problems, the assault by young entrepreneurs on the systemic corruption perpetuated by patron-client schemes is undoubtedly a sign of hope.