There are 1.8 billion young people in the world, and it is the fastest growing age group on the planet. Although dynamic, youth is often deprived access to decision-makers, especially in developing countries. Through open government, young activists attempt to tackle the global divide and inequalities in their communities, focusing on pressing issues and promoting change far beyond the local level.
A city initiative in Medellin, Colombia, managed to inspire such change in the country and abroad. A youth-led project called City Monday (Lunes de Ciudad), which aims to connect citizens and the government, has kick-started fifteen similar initiatives across the globe. One activist from the organization, Maira Duque, says that aim is to put the citizens’ agenda into the governmental agenda. “City Monday connects people wanting to know more about what’s happening in our city and get involved to make things happen,” she explains. The initiative includes weekly conversations on the streets with academics, officials, and decision-makers to discuss local problems and look for proposals. “Our initiative is connected to OGP, because we are bringing governors and residents together to learn different views on particular issues and solve them.” Maira adds, “Young people are the biggest group involved in our project; and they are very engaged.”
City Monday is a successful case when a local open government idea turned into a national and later, international, movement. In five years, it encouraged similar initiatives across the globe, engaging citizens to discuss issues that matter for their communities. In Maira’s native Medellin, the group focuses mostly on security and co-existence because the city still suffers from street violence. “We focus on air quality because eight people die every day due to pollution,” she adds.
Open government can help youth tackle more global issues, bringing them to a local perspective. This is what Francis Ametepey doing as a part of the African Youth Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) summit. Alongside other youth leaders, Francis attempts to involve more peers in the initiative, to make sure their voices are heard. “Young people are the drivers of sustainable development goals, and through our summit, we allow them to share and learn best practices,” he says. The idea of the project goes far beyond his native Ghana, and involves activists from all over the continent working on the SDGs and relevant commitments.
Using open government tools has helped Francis promote his cause, as it empowered citizens like himself and opened up more information about what was happening with governmental initiatives. “Open government is a good platform for young people, who are often involved in grassroots organizations, to get more influence,” Francis claims.
Youth-led initiatives can start on a very small scale and help communities that need it the most, believes Ysabel Vargas. A recent graduate from the Philippines, she researches the way citizens can get more engaged with the government – and the other way around. For Ysabel, the question is how to involve those who do not have access to the Internet and other digital opportunities – but who may greatly benefit from open government developments.
Ysabel’s background allowed her to learn about OGP through her school and many like-minded peers; however, she thinks the initiative can be a major change for less fortunate people, who aren’t in school. “I am an advocate for indigenous people, and I think it is important to go into the field and educate those who don’t have technology and localize the problems,” Ysabel says. She believes young people can be a leading force here by connecting with the community and talking with individuals in remote areas or with little access to knowledge.
While youth can certainly address local and regional issues, bringing activists together can generate more projects and ideas on a global scale, which will involve more citizens. As Maira concludes, “Being at #OGPGeorgia, I am learning about other open government experiences that we can replicate and bring to my city and the rest of the country.”