Response to Questions for Member States


This is in response to a contribution to an OAS meeting distributed in my office this morning. It is of course my set of opinions only, and not reflective of any official policy or practice, though I would add that most of these have been undertaken to one degree or another by various levels of Canadian government organizations.

1. How can member states leverage connectivity and emerging technologies to bridge the digital divide, particularly in addressing the challenges faced by young people who are not connected to digital infrastructures? 

Three major avenues:

- Broadband and accessibility mandate – through financial support and public policy ensuring wired, fibre or wireless broadband access is available, including in rural and underserviced areas

- Education and development – support and resources for skills development (digital and data literacy, responsible use, etc.) both in-school and continuing education

- Deployment and use – provision of most major services online, support for institutions and industries to offer services online, programs and mechanisms to connect people to online services

2. How can the OAS Member States accelerate youth’s digital skills, readiness and certification to participate in the digital and innovation economy?

Pathways to digital skills:

- Develop and maintain an ongoing definition or outline of the major constitutents of online and digital literacy, taking into account new developments as they occur (such as the recent rise of AI) eg. The UNESCO definition of teacher and student digital literacies

- Develop and deliver ongoing programs for skills development, including an openeducational resource base and support for a digital literacy network and major partners (eg. Media Smarts) working in this area

- Develop or contract a skills certification metric and recognition program referencing skills development programs

3. What are the steps to increase employment and entrepreneurship paths for youth harnessing connectivity and emerging technologies?

Provide reference services for employment opportunities and support for alternative employment paths:

- Connect government-supported employment banks to a distributed network of employment reference service (employing, for example, ActivityPub standards for federation) and encourage through policy and support participation by private agencies (such as LinkedIn or Monster)

- Ensure public sector hiring proceeds through such a system and not through a separate parallel system

- Develop intelligent search services for employers to identify candidates; create a mechanism for prospective employees to market skills and make themselves visible to such services

- Through policy and support develop and sustain mechanisms for alternative employment mechanisms, including especially remote work opportunities for people living (and preferring to live) in remote and rural regions (it should be noted that remote work offers an unparalleled opportunity for remote and rural development)

- Support through policy and resources specific mechanisms for entrepreneurship and innovation connected directly to governance mechanisms in these areas, for example, online tool that supports small business creation directly (rather than merely instructions on how to do it)

4. How can governments ensure that digital literacy programs are effectively reaching young people, equipping them with the necessary skills to participate in the digital economy and fostering entrepreneurship and innovation?

Accurate and repeated assessment of digital literacy skills combined with ongoing study of actual behaviour in the marketplace:

- In-school assessment of digital literacy skills as part of regular and ongoing assessment processes (ideally included in, and not separate from, other assessments)

- Ongoing monitoring of public behaviour in social media environments, including both one-off studies (where participants are specifically enrolled) and longitudinal studies

- Ongoing assessment of online trends and practices generally

- Ongoing collection and assessment of self-managed economic activity through digital channels (this should include not only new enterprises but also eg. Content creation work on TikTok and YouTube, etc.)

- Regular reporting identifying where possible linkages between the development of digital skills and literacies and economic activities related to these, understanding that such relations will rarely be linear and predictable

5. What gender-responsive policies and initiatives can member states implement to address gender disparities in youth employment and digital inclusion?

Develop, highlight and normalize gender inclusivity in all digital technology:

- Support for gender-specific technology initiatives (eg., ‘Women who Code’, which recently suspended operations due to lack of funding)

- Consistent with previous recommendations, support through resources and policy alternative employment strategies to enable women in various stages of child support to participate equally in the marketplace

- Ensure representation of women in media and programs related to digital technology (eg., in advertising material, public profiles, conference participation, etc.) and ensure that these role models are visible and normalized for children and youth considering careers in digital technology

- Support through policy and resources content evaluation and moderating services, including especially content used to train automatic services, to ensure fair and accurate representations of women in the technological workplace

- Support through policy and resources similar programs for other under-represented groups; in Canada this especially applies to support for Indigenous communities as well as minority language support, support for immigrant communities, and support for visible minorities

6. How can member states use the findings and recommendations from this discussion to inform the development of a resolution or declaration that prioritizes connectivity and emerging technologies in the fight against youth unemployment as a component of resilient socioeconomic development across the Americas?

Recognize and appreciate the linkage between connectivity and emerging technologies in the fight against youth unemployment and sustainable development generally

- Sustainable development is possible only to the extent that the population as a whole is able to participate and benefit in that development

- To create that participation, support is necessary to prepare both recipients for participation, as well as to create channels for that participation 

I want to add as one final remark, that this isn't a menu of options that governments can select from; from points one through six it represents a system of responses such that, if one part of the response is missing, the system as a whole is impaired. 

Title Image: Pew.


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