IGF 2018 WS #440 Emerging Youth Practices and the Digital Economy


Organizer 1: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 2: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 3: Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization
Organizer 4: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

By discussing online youth practices in the context of the blurred lines between work and play, we will provide a critical examination of the changing nature of labor, the kind of skills that are needed for participating in the digital economy, and how digital inequalities continue to evolve in complex ways. Driven by rapid technological transformation, the digital economy creates both challenges and opportunities for youth. Large social, commercial, and entertainment platforms offer networked spaces where youth are able to learn, create, play, and develop a range of skills that are key for our rapidly changing economic landscape. However, as many online platforms operate under profitable business models, the potential commercialization of youth’s data and generated content presents a risk in terms of privacy and free labor. In order to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities in this digital context it’s crucial to (1) discuss how youth think about their online play and work activities, and how these conceptualizations have evolved over time; (2) analyze how the skills, attitudes, and identities they are developing in digital spaces prepare them for the future workforce; and (3) convene diverse groups of stakeholders, with backgrounds in fields ranging from law (including child rights, human rights) and regulation to media analysis, to debate policy and design interventions that can foster a more equitable and inclusive future.


Round Table - 90 Min


Past and current work conducted by the proposed speakers focuses on the use and adaptation of the Internet by traditionally marginalized youth communities across the globe (with a particular focus on the Global South) to increase the inclusion of these groups online. These vulnerable communities include, but are not limited to, youth in rural areas, LGBTQ youth, ethnic and racial minorities, youth with disabilities, and girls and young women. The initial set of suggested speakers includes members from civil society, government officials, and company representatives. The current group of speakers is also diverse in terms of ethnicity, race, gender and sexual identity, national origin, location, and age.

The proposed roundtable focuses on one novel aspect of the complex evolutionary path of youth practices and experiences in the digital age: The increasingly blurred lines between “play” and “work” as young people engage in a broad range of leisure activities such as gameplay, media production, and content circulation through which they participate in the digital environment, contribute to value creation, and – in some cases – even generate income. The roundtable will identify, map, and explore relevant trends at the intersection of online play/work to gain a deeper understanding of youth media practices on networked platforms and their relationship to economic opportunities. These platforms provide new means of expression, learning, and connecting, and foster youth’s development of skills, attitudes, and identities that are relevant to their (future) participation in the evolving digital economy. Building on the participants’ strong backgrounds in youth and media research, connected learning, and law and policy, the roundtable conversation will examine both opportunities and challenges associated with youth’s digital play/work and discuss how multi-stakeholder efforts can help create a future that supports youth’s entrepreneurial spirit and the development of 21st century skills, while also providing for adequate protections and safeguards in the new economic landscape. We, therefore, propose a 75-minute, strongly moderated roundtable discussion focused on youth and the digital economy. 

Discussion Facilitation: 

We propose a 75-minute, strongly moderated roundtable discussion focused and centered on youth and the digital economy. The roundtable will begin with a 5-10 minute framing by the moderator, which may include a brief overview of the issue, key questions, or challenges to the topic set forth. The roundtables will then include 5-7 minute reactions to that framing from some participants in the session. Questions from the moderator, the co-organizers, audience, other participants, and online participants will then be incorporated into the conversation. The online participants will be given equal opportunity for input as on-site participants, both in providing questions and comments. The roundtable format is most suitable for this discussion as it enables youth stakeholders, who would otherwise be restricted in their access, to have a greater level of involvement through online contributions. The roundtables will be the ideal format for networking and in-depth discussion.


  • Gemma Newlands, Future Ways of Working Project, Nordic Centre for Internet and Society, Norweigan Business School BI, Oslo, Norway
Online Participation: 

We will leverage the existing websites, social media channels, and mailing lists managed by the proposers and speakers’ home institutions to reach out to people interested in participating online, channeling them into the official IGF WebEx environment to contribute to the session. Individuals will also be encouraged to submit contributions via email in advance of the session. We will target youth stakeholder groups for submission of content for the session. Due to the youth-focused nature of our proposed workshop, we will give precedence to the voices of youth participants.

Online moderator

  • Alexandra Hasse, Youth and Media project, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA

We propose a 75-minute, strongly moderated roundtable discussion focused on youth and the digital economy.

1) Introduction by Sandra Cortesi and Lionel Brossi – 10 minutes

This introduction will include a brief overview of the issue, raise key questions, and point out certain challenges around the topic. 

2) Brief interventions (5-7 minutes) by:

  • Jasmina Byrne, UNICEF
  • Fieseler Christian, Norwegian Business School BI
  • Andres Lombana-Bermudez, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
  • Karuna Nain, Private Sector, Asia-Pacific Group
  • Marcelino Cabrera, Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
  • Juliana Nolasco, Private Sector, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Directed topics – 30 minutes (5-7 minutes per topic)

  • Equity, participation gaps, and opportunities for youth
  • Multifaceted nature of youth economic activity online: as producers, consumers, marketers, products
  • Relevant skills in the digital economy environment
  • Economic activities online and offline that enable youth to earn different forms of economic, social, and/or cultural capital (e.g., earning money; increasing social connections; building personal brands)
  • Youth perceptions on the future of work

3) Open debate among speakers, co-organizers, audience, and online participants on topics raised earlier – 30 minutes

4) Conclusion by Christian Fieseler – 5 minutes


Session co-organizers:

  • [Organizer] Sandra Cortesi is the Director of the Youth and Media project at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University. Sandra’s expertise in the field of youth digital literacy and inclusion, as well as her close and ongoing collaboration with multiple youth stakeholders, enables her to address the current status of youth in the digital economy, as well as to point out future trends. Stemming from ongoing qualitative research with young people across the US, Sandra will act as a conduit for the voices of underserved youth who may not be able to participate.
  • [Co-organizer] Lionel Brossi, Director of Postgraduate Studies and Assistant Professor at the Institute of Communication and Image at the University of Chile, will provide a valuable perspective from the Global South. His experience in the field of artificial Intelligence and inclusion will contribute to the discussion around the role of youth in the future of work.
  • [Co-organizer] Jasmina Byrne just started as Chief of Policy Lab at the newly founded UNICEF Policy Lab in New York. At the Policy Lab, she focuses on emerging and cross-cutting issues such as climate change, employability and skills, and digital policy. Before moving to New York, Jasmina was a Child Protection Specialist at UNICEF’s Office of Research where she led Innocenti’s work on children’s rights in the digital age.
  • [Co-organizer] Christian Fieseler, as the Director of the Nordic Centre for Internet and Society in Oslo, will represent the European perspective and provide insights from his ongoing research projects on young people and their current/intended careers. Christian’s background in the business sector of academia will also enable him to address the topic from a broader perspective and place the activities of young people in the wider economic context.
  • [Co-organizer / TBC] Urs Gasser is the Executive Director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and a Professor of Practice at Harvard Law School. His research and teaching activities focus on information law, policy, and society issues. Urs has written and co-written several books, including “Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives.” He’s also the Principal Investigator of the Youth and Media project at the Berkman Klein Center.
  • [Co-organizer] Jan Gerlach has been selected for participation due to his position as Public Policy Manager at the Wikimedia Foundation in San Francisco. As a public policy specialist at the intersection of information, technology, law, and society, Jan will expand the discussion to include the issue of knowledge access for youth, particularly among underserved youth. Jan will be able to address the development of online content by youth and for youth, indicating its location within the wider digital economy.

- Session Type (Workshop, Open Forum, etc.):  Workshop

- Title: Emerging Youth Practices and the Digital Economy

- Date: Monday the 12 November 2018

- Time: 9:00 - 10:30 am

- Organizer(s):

  • Lionel Brossi, Institute of Communication and Image at the University of Chile (Civil Society)
  • Sandra Cortesi, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University (Civil Society)
  • Christian Fieseler, Norwegian Business School BI (Civil Society)
  • Urs Gasser, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University (Civil Society)

- Chair/Moderator:

  • Sandra Cortesi, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University (In-person moderator)
  • Alexa Hasse, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University (Remote moderator)

- Rapporteur/Notetaker:

  • Alexa Hasse, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University

- List of speakers and their institutional affiliations (Indicate male/female/ transgender male/ transgender female/gender variant/prefer not to answer):

  • Jasmina Byrne (female), Chief of Policy Lab, UNICEF Division of Data, Research and Policy (Intergovernmental Organization)
  • Marcelino Cabrera (male), Senior Researcher, Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (Government)
  • Monica Guise Rosina (female), Public Policy Manager, Facebook (Private Sector)
  • Andres Lombana-Bermudez (male), Fellow, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, Centro de Estudios de Internet y Sociedad (ISUR), (Civil Society)
  • Juliana Nolasco (female), Public Policy Manager, Google (Private Sector)

- Theme (as listed here): Human Rights, Gender & Youth

- Subtheme (as listed here): Youth Inclusion

- Please state no more than three (3) key messages of the discussion. [150 words or less]

  • The participation of youth in the digital economy is impacted not only by inequities in terms of Internet access, but gaps around factors such as a) level of connectivity, b) socioeconomic status, c) quality of education and d) degree of Internet freedom in a particular region. These gaps, in turn, affect the visibility of youth engaging in online economic activities.
  • As youth participate in the digital economy, they have opportunities to not only cultivate economic capital but cultural and social capital. It’s worthwhile to consider how we might measure these forms of intangible capital.
  • It’s important to consider how stakeholders operationalize the digital skills needed to successfully participate in the digital economy – not only safety-oriented skills but also skills around creativity and problem-solving. The way we define these skills must also be fluid and adaptable as developments in technologies continue to evolve.

- Please elaborate on the discussion held, specifically on areas of agreement and divergence. [150 words] Examples: There was broad support for the view that…; Many [or some] indicated that…; Some supported XX, while others noted YY…; No agreement…


- Please describe any policy recommendations or suggestions regarding the way forward/potential next steps. [100 words]


- What ideas surfaced in the discussion with respect to how the IGF ecosystem might make progress on this issue? [75 words)


- Please estimate the total number of participants.

There were approximately 42 total participants (this number takes into account organizers, moderator, the rapporteur, and speakers).

- Please estimate the total number of women and gender-variant individuals present.

Approximately 20 participants were women (this number takes into account organizers, moderator, the rapporteur, and speakers).  The panel itself was primarily female, with three out of the five speakers being female, and a female moderator and rapporteur.

- To what extent did the session discuss gender issues, and if to any extent, what was the discussion? [100 words]

Gender issues in the context of youth and the digital economy were embedded throughout the workshop. In particular, panelists discussed the persistent gender gap in terms of ICT usage and labor participation. Data from UNICEF, for example, indicates that 26% more young men (ages 15-24) than young women engage in economic activities online. Against this backdrop, the group discussed the importance of training programs for young women catered to their specific needs. For example, training should provide remote learning for young mothers working from home, and/or young girls experiencing restriction of movement due to, for example, limited transportation.

Session Time: 
Monday, 12 November, 2018 - 09:00 to 10:30
Salle VIII

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa Le Bocage
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 678