Winter 2014 Youth Assembly Day Two

    Alright, day two. You will be happy to know that weather was certainly nicer. Yesterday's snow, sleet, and over all demonic weather front was replaced by sunshine and a balmy 29 degrees (Fahrenheit that is).

    As for the Youth Assembly, it picked up where yesterday left off. It started with a beautiful introductory song by a Japanese singer whose name unfortunately remains unknown, even after scouring my notes. After this introduction, the morning session titled "The Role and Responsibility of the Private Sector" began. We heard from a number of professionals from both the private sector and the UN. A reoccurring theme of these speakers was the crucial role technology is going to play in the future of entrepreneurship. No longer does a young person with a great idea have to wait for a large company to invest in them. There are now websites where anyone who has a novel creation or business plan can find individual investors from around the world to make their dream a reality.

    For me, the most impressive speaker from this session was Francesca Covey, Strategic Partner & Manager at Politics, Facebook. Covey discussed the importance of technology entrenching itself in developing nations. In fact, a 10% increase in mobile phone penetration in developing countries increases its national GDP by 1%. That may not seem like much as a statistic. Yet, the fact that such a noticeable increase is caused by something as small as cellphone is simply mind boggling to me. What's more, part of her initiative with Facebook is to ensure that those in developing countries have access to some form of online communication. They are doing this in two ways. Firstly, they are making Facebook accessible to not just smart phones, but to all cellphones. This mightn't seem like a big deal to many of you, but rest assured, coming from somebody that doesn't have a smart phone and is an avid Facebook user, this is somewhat of a godsend. Their second approach is to make data as a whole more affordable. Through their new website, Covey and the Facebook team is working with companies such as Ericsson and Samsung to find ways to streamline and expand the reach of data, making it accessible to everyone. 

    Another Notable speaker was Gary Fowlie, Chief Media Liaison for UN ITU. Fowlie held a workshop in the afternoon titled "Strengthening Entrepreneurial Skills through ICT". ICT simply stands for information communication technology. Though his discussion on the entrepreneurial relationship with ICT was fascinating, I was particularly interested with his talk as he raised the issue of disproportionate gender representation in subjects like engineering (much like Debbie Sterling, who is mentioned in my last post). Similar to Sterling yesterday, he pointed out that areas such as computer science and engineering were heavily male dominated. However, what I found particularly impressive was the amount of times he called on the audience for feedback. "Why do you think that is?" he would ask, "How can this be changed?"

    Like always at this assembly, the responses from the representatives were bang on and insightful. But more importantly, I finally spoke!! I explained, in a slightly terrified voice, that traditional gender roles probably play a big part in gender preferences for certain careers. From a very early age, girls in many cases seem to be surrounded with princesses and tea sets, where boys are more often exposed to building blocks and other toys with engineering undertones. Therefore, if we want to have more equitable representation in these subject areas, we should have toys that promote engineering and science for girls, just like we do boys. Not too bad for a first try I hope. 

    That brought me to the end of the second and final day of the assembly. It was a truly incredible experience that showed me that despite all the problems facing our generation in the future, there are many who are willing to confront these problems and come to solutions through international participation and discussion. But perhaps what I enjoyed most about this event, even more than the speakers, was the people I had the privilege of meeting and the networking as a result. They came from all over the world and were, above anything, unfathomably friendly. Many photos were taken, business cards exchanged, and many Facebook friend requests accepted. These are people that I honestly feel I will keep in touch with in the future and are the most valuable things I have taken from this whole experience.

    And that is all. I am truly grateful that I was able to represent FAWCO at the event and I would call on all the young people associated with the group to take opportunities like this when they are presented to you. The future is going to be what we make it, and events such as this are helping to ensure that it will be as bright as possible. 



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