In the rapidly evolving digital landscape, the role of youth in steering the course of Internet Governance is paramount. At DIGRA, we stand at the forefront of this change, championing the cause of meaningfully engaging youth in Internet Governance across the globe. Our global community, spanning various countries, is a testament to our commitment to this cause. Osei Manu Kagyah from Ghana stands out as a dedicated member of our community, working toward building a youth-led digital space. While our reach is global, it is the individual stories of leaders like Osei that truly encapsulate the essence of our mission. We recently sat down with Osei to delve deeper into his experiences, insights, and aspirations for the digital future. Here’s our conversation with him.
DIGRA: Osei, it is wonderful to reconnect with you. We have been keenly following your leadership at the Youth IGF Ghana, and it is great to discuss it further. Also, a big thank you for inviting the DIGRA team to speak at the event. It was an honor.
Osei: Absolutely! When Lily Edinam Botsyoe and I were shaping the program’s agenda, I immediately thought of the talented individuals I knew at Digital Grassroots. Given my association as a fellow, it seemed fitting to invite them for a keynote. Lily brought up Uffa’s (Uffa Modey, Digital Grassroots Global Lead) name, which was a fantastic suggestion. Uffa joined us at the opening ceremony with a powerful keynote, emphasising the importance of solidarity.
DIGRA: Can you share your personal experience in shaping and implementing this event?
Osei: Certainly, thank you for asking. The experience was genuinely fulfilling for me. Reflecting on my journey, being part of the ISOC Youth Ambassador program and the Digital Grassroots cohort in 2021, I feel I have come quite a distance. I played a pivotal role in organizing this program and represented the Ghana IGF. Our youth event preceded the main one, and during the main event, I presented our discussions from the previous day. Key figures from the digital ecosystem were present, and the entire experience felt deeply rewarding. Additionally, we showcased a documentary reviewing the Digital Grassroots Internet report during our program.
DIGRA: From your leadership at the youth IGF, what insights or lessons can you share?
Osei: During our program, our primary focus was fostering resilience among Ghanaian youth, aligning with the main IGF agenda of building a secure and sustainable digital future. We derived several key insights from our discussions:
The youth must not only grasp internet opportunities but also uphold ethical standards.
Enhancing digital literacy programs is crucial to bridge knowledge gaps and ensuring equal digital skills access.
Promoting a culture of fact-checking and emphasising the importance of accurate information dissemination is essential.
Addressing the digital divide is critical, and we must ensure equal access to digital tools without leaving anyone behind.
Collaboration between the private sector, civil society, and the government is vital for a system that bolsters youth entrepreneurship and innovation.
Encouraging intergenerational dialogue is essential, leveraging the unique perspectives of each generation for societal betterment.
We also discussed emerging technologies and trends, preparing Ghanaian youth to lead innovations.
DIGRA: Ghana appears proactive in encouraging youth involvement in internet governance. How do you assess the country’s standing in this regard?
Osei: Indeed. Ghana, I believe, is making commendable strides. I recently participated in the West African Youth IGF, hosted by Côte d’Ivoire. It was surprising to learn that many young individuals there had minimal knowledge about Internet governance. However, Ghana and Nigeria, within the West African region, are performing well. Other countries, like Cape Verde, are reaching out to learn from our experiences. In Ghana, the Youth IGF is dynamic. We have the Ghana Internet School of Governance (GIGS), where we introduce participants to Internet governance over a three-week course.
DIGRA: Considering your active participation in various IGF editions, how do you see youth-led organisations influencing power dynamics during events like the IGF?
Osei: I contend that the youth frequently encounter disadvantages and roadblocks, particularly in terms of access to resources. Synergistic endeavors with well-established entities have the potential to improve this disparity. Interactions spanning different generations assume a paramount role, guaranteeing that seasoned individuals offer guidance to the youth. The youth exhibit enthusiasm and competence, although a substantial number remain uncertain about the appropriate starting point. When appropriately directed, their substantial contributions to discourse and policy formulation can be realised. Collaboration, resource allocation, and mentorship stand as pivotal factors in the progression of these deliberations and ensuing actions.
DIGRA: Finally, how do you envision the trajectory of youth engagement in internet governance across Ghana and Africa?
Osei: Looking ahead, I envision a future where more youth are actively engaged in the discussions and decision-making processes of internet governance. I see a time when internet governance is not something alien to anyone but a mainstream conversation. The youth will not just be props to balance discussions; their voices and inputs will be taken seriously and acted upon. In this future, the youth will emerge not only as digital users but as responsible digital citizens, proactively shaping their digital future. To achieve this, collaboration across different sectors and the availability of resources for the youth are paramount. I hope to see a time when our youth are at the forefront, genuinely influencing policies and discussions about the internet, its governance, and its impact on our societies.
DIGRA: It has been such a pleasure hearing your perspective. We appreciate you sharing your experiences with us and look forward to future engagements with you.
Osei: Thank you for having me. Count me in for those future initiatives!