Leveraging technological innovation to expand youth participation in climate change: Reflections and insights from the Sustainable Innovation Symposium.

In an age of rapidly evolving technological innovation, young people are found sitting at the core, with high expectations on them to not only produce the technologies but also effectively consume the technologies in enhancing national and international development endeavors. The energy and restlessness of youth should be synonymous with innovation and progress, and there was definitely no shortage of this at the first edition Sustainable Innovation Symposium, hosted by the Development Reality Institute (DRI), under the theme “Innovative technologies for development beyond 2015”
The one-day symposium held at a local hotel, brought together over 200 delegates, to caucus on how technology, mainly Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) can be leveraged to achieve national development in Zimbabwe. As a member of the National Youth Climate Change Network, DRI took the opportunity to explore during the symposium, opportunities for enhancing youth participation and engagement with climate change issues nationally and internationally.

Information and communication technology (ICT) enabled collaboration is increasingly becoming important because of its affordability and ability to draw from a wide and diverse community. Information and communication technology (ICT) is no an arguably ubiquitous technology that is increasingly finding use in stimulation and acceleration of new innovations. The uptake of ICTs and innovation of various ICT based tools to make life easier. Opportunities are still vastly under tapped where ICTs can be exploited to bring about fundamental positive change in global development dynamics, particularly information dissemination and diffusion of knowledge.

Opening remarks made by the DRI Coordinator Verengai Mabika, described the timelessness of information and knowledge as one of the strongest foundations of any meaningful participation and engagement in national development processes. Mabika reflected on the Climate Change Virtual School, which his organization pioneered three years ago, as an example of how online platforms have made information and engagement more accessible than ever, transcending geographical limitations and opening a window of knowledge to the world. He further highlighted the privileged position of today’s young people, on how they can contribute to national governance and have their views heard, something virtually impossible only decades ago. He reiterated that young people’s engagement with climate change issues demonstrated responsibility as leaders of today and stewardship as leaders of tomorrow.

While some delegates expressed fears about the limited extent of access to technologies especially ICTs, to young people in areas with poor tele-communication infrastructure, their concerns were allayed by Mabika who spoke at length about embracing the future of technology today in order to take full advantage of it. He added that while it was true that internet and mobile-phone penetration had not reached young people hundred percent, it remained prudent that programmes kick start now, so that as connectivity increases there is no dearth of content to access.
Outside ICTs the deliberations also touched on technologies, which employ alternative energy sources or enhance efficient energy utilisation, such as solar, biogas, wind and hydro-electricity. The mostly youthful delegates were urged to champion proliferation of these technologies, through promotion, utilisation and distribution in small businesses.

The symposium concluded among other issues discussed by recognizing that increasingly young people globally are taking up the challenge to engage in a wide range of climate change responses by developing fit for purpose technologies, while some are pursuing advocacy goals on climate change related aspects. Business opportunities exist in marketing and retailing the wide range of technologies being developed, but most of all young people need to walk their talk by being climate smart themselves. It is there crucial that Zimbabwean youths carve out and identify their own niche in engaging with the climate change discourse, taking advantage of partnerships and networks in building traction for their activities. Ultimately young people cannot dispense with government support, which will always remain central to success.

Article Written by Karen Mhlanga –Climate Change Unit – Development Reality Institute.

© 2014 DRI Africa | All Rights Reserved.
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