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AI for Good Global Summit

Digital inclusion of youth

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Digital inclusion for youth BCKGROUNDERPhoto by Andrew Aitchison/ In Pictures Ltd./ Corbis via Getty Images​



Data collected by UNESCO for 2020 show that around the world, 40% of primary schools and 66% of secondary schools had access to the Internet in 2020. In LDCs, 28% of primary schools and 35%, of secondary schools had access to the Internet. 100% primary school Internet connectivity has been achieved in 42 of 93 countries for which data were available. Connectivity for all secondary schools has been met in 50 countries (available data from 94 countries for lower secondary and 97 countries for upper secondary).

As advanced digital skills become more important for employment and entrepreneurial success, some experts predict that there might soon be a “talent gap" for workers with advanced ICT competencies. This need for qualified workers is exacerbated by various socioeconomic inequities, such as the lack of Internet access at home. 

Lack of digital connectivity is just an initial barrier to obtaining the technological skills and education that young people need to succeed. According to the How Many Children and Youth Have Internet Access at Home report, a joint effort by UNICEF and the ITU, over two-thirds of the world's school-age girls and boys aged 3 to 17 years (1.3 billion children) and 63% of youths aged 15 to 24 years (almost 760 million youths) lack Internet access at home. Globally, according to the latest data available, some two-thirds (66%) of all households were connected, leaving some 2.2 billion children and young people aged 25 years or less did not have access to an Internet connection at home. 

Access varies widely depending on countries' relative wealth: in high-income countries, 87% of children and young people have an Internet connection at home, but in low-income countries, just 6% do . A young person's access to an Internet connection (and hence digital skill development) often relies on the wealth, income, and living standards of their parents.


All stakeholders, including governments, academia, the private sector, and civil society can design strategies which help develop young people's digital skills and support full economic, social, and digital inclusion for all youth. Digital technology can help enhance education, reduce youth unemployment, and promote socioeconomic development, but for youth to benefit from these opportunities, all young people must be equipped with a range of technological skills and have affordable access to connectivity. 

Governments should focus on strategies which empower youth to become more engaged in their local communities. Such strategies include: 

Forming a coalition of talented young leaders active in the digital space. Governments can put out a call for youth in their own countries to develop a national ICTs Young Leaders Programme. These youth leaders can then organize and advertise ICT-related campaigns, initiatives, youth programs, and other activities which work to contribute to the fulfilment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They can also lobby for more comprehensive youth participation in political and social forums at local, regional, and international levels.

ITU’s contribution to include youth in a digital society

Youth Strategy: The ITU Youth Strategy aims to reduce the youth digital divide and improve the lives of young people around the world. The activities and efforts proposed in this strategy are grouped around three areas of action: Empower, Engage and Participate . 

The objectives of the Youth Strategy include: encouraging youth participation in ITU programmes, events and activities; promoting ICT youth-related policies within ITU Member States to ensure inclusiveness and empower youth, particularly in developing countries; and engaging in regular dialogue and consultations with youth to undertake concrete actions. 

The ITU is developing initiatives to engage youth through the ITU Youth Task Forces, whose members serve in ITU's regional offices. The Generation Connect Youth Summit was held in Kigali, Rwanda, on 4-5 June 2022, prior to the World Telecommunication Development Conference 2021 (WTDC-21). It engaged global youth and empowered young people with the skill s and opportunities to advance their vision of a connected future, which resulted in a Youth Call to Action

Partnerships: ITU partners with other international organizations and private institutions in order to provide youth with the skills they need to succeed. ITU is a partner of the United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development (IANYD) , which works to advance and increase the effectiveness of the UN's work in youth development and policy by strengthening collaboration, creating coherence, and enabling exchange among all relevant UN entities, especially those whose work is relevant to youth. ITU collaborates with other UN agencies, such as the permanent co-chair, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), to support, encourage, and cooperate on relevant interagency initiatives to youth issues. 

ITU also partners with the Model United Nations (MUN) programme of Ferney-Voltaire, France to coordinate the Futurecasters: Global Young Visionaries Summit, a 3-day conference focusing on how technologies can be used to advance progress towards the 17 UN SDGs. The objective of the Summit is to bring the voices of young people to major ITU development discussions and activities as well as bring awareness to youth of global issues. 

Youth Boards: The Generation Connect Visionaries Board is an initiative of the ITU Youth Strategy on the journey to the WTDC-21 and the WTDC-21 Generation Connect Global Youth Summit. The objective of the GCVB is to identify and develop new partnerships with youth organizations, high-level partners, and boards. These partnerships will ensure youth engagement and participation in digital cooperation. 

Digital Gender Divide: ITU is committed to encouraging young women and girls to seek careers in ICT. The Girls in ICT initiative consists of a year-long programme that includes capacity building on digital skills, development of evidence-based knowledge resources, and partnerships with Academia, Ministries of ICT, Ministries of Education, and others, to create campaigns which inspire young girls to pursue STEM related careers and opportunities.  


Last update: June 2022