It was an incredible experience to be part a group of young professionals working in Qatar who recently travelled to San José, Costa Rica to participate at the BYND 2015 Global Youth Summit.
The three-day summit offered a platform for young people to lend their voice and influence decisions at the United Nations post-2015, and it was encouraging to see 15 representatives from various companies and organizations within Qatar making an impact during their trip.
Along with some 700 participants meeting in San José, over 3,000 young people around the world logged in virtually to contribute their ideas from 43 hubs or workshops in 25 different countries using a unique crowd-sourcing platform and other social media channels.
Almost fifteen years ago in the year 2000, all members of the United Nations along with many organizations and influential people from all over the world came together as they worked to establish the Millennium Declaration Goals (MDG). Those were a set of eight goals in different fields (health, education, women rights, etc.) that they wished to achieve by 2015.
Now that the deadline is coming near, a new declaration will be written in about two weeks in New York City with brand new fresh goals to achieve in the post-2015 era. This time, however, there is a great emphasis on ICTs and how they are a key tool in change.
The highlight for Team Qatar at the summit was their participation in the BYND 2015 Hackathon – an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development collaborate to design and code digital solutions for development challenges linked to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Team Qatar excelled in the event and made it all the to the semi-finals. Team member, Latifa Al-Naimi (21), saw the hackathon as a unique opportunity to make a difference through ICTs.
“I decided to take part in the hackathon because it was an amazing opportunity that I couldn’t pass on,” she says. “A chance to take part in a 24-hour event where you code and try to come up with a solution is amazing. My group was assigned the category of environment and we were given data on CO2 emissions in Qatar. One of the things that emits a lot of CO2 is vehicles, and in our country people don’t carpool or walk. So we’re looking at a solution to raise awareness and encourage people to change their behavior; but also to influence government and policy.”
Real results are beginning to come to fruition for this forward-thinking generation in Qatar. They are the present day innovators who are shaping and defining the future of this nation. Latifa explains that the work of IT professionals in Qatar has the potential to influence Government decisions.
“We’re developing a mobile app that users can use in their vehicles and track their emissions,” she explains. “In addition, it will also provide stats that can be sent to the Government who can use it to inform policy. We also want to make the app into like a game, incorporate social networks and allow users to build communities with their friends and see who is doing better. If this is taken up by the Government we could also have rewards for people who reduce their emissions.”
By the end of the three days of extensive sessions, ideas and suggestions from all over were harvested and a declaration was written by the youth to be handed to the UN and the different change makers later on in the New York City summit. For the first time, the youth are heavily involved in a movement that will affect everyone’s lives to the better and, as UN Secretary General’s Envoy of Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, said in his speech: “Nothing should be done without involving the youth. Nothing.”