During one weekend this past May young Colombians got together to solve community issues in an increasingly familiar venue–online. The event, organized in conjunction with the World Bank, connected young people working to develop applications to tackle security, risk management, transportation and health issues. Teams from each of the three participating cities competed for three winning spots and a chance to present their ideas in Bogota. Top finishers included:
“Ciclomundo” to let cyclists know which streets are the safest. ( Coco Locos Team, Cali),
“CIUDAPP Cuida tu ciudad” to enable citizens to use mobile devices to notify the responsible agencies for problems with public facilities and infrastructure. (Nerdcore Team, Barranquilla), as well an application from the Emgenia Team from Manziales that gives people points for adopting healthy habits which can then be converted to food donations for community kitchens.
The World Bank quoted María Isabel Mejía, Colombia’s Deputy Minister of Information Technologies and Systems, who said, “this type of activity is spectacular because it promotes innovation, creativity, cooperation and citizen participation to help solve the city’s problems.”
Mejía’s enthusiasm is well-placed. In channelling the energy of the younger generations, countries may harness an eagerness to stay abreast of new trends in communication tools and greater technological literacy for effective development. This way, countries can hope to circumvent the digital divide that prevents them from best taking advantage of information and communication technologies.
Indeed, the 2011 ICT “Facts and Figures” report published by ITU indicates that, across the board, younger people are spending more time online than their older counterparts. Perhaps even more exciting are the people who have yet to join the conversation. 70% of the under-25 demographic in developing countries are not online, and thus present a potential windfall of future online activity.
Events like Co-Crea Colombia provide an opportunity to link socially-minded young people, from the aspiring social entrepreneur to the new kid on the block (with a smartphone), and empower them to develop plausible solutions to community problems that they encounter in their daily lives.