Home OPINIONS Leveraging youth and technology: A blueprint for harmony and peace 

Leveraging youth and technology: A blueprint for harmony and peace 

Technologies are interlaced with societal foundations, structures, values, and belief systems. They are enablers and mediums for achieving people's and communities' conceptualizations and ideas. 

Technology continues to be an integral part of our lives today; recent times have seen technological advancements in diverse areas, including artificial intelligence, blockchain, augmented and virtual reality, quantum computing, bioinformatics, and machine learning.

These advancements, rooted in core structures of society, demonstrate how social frameworks underpin the development of technologies.

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Technologies are interlaced with societal foundations, structures, values, and belief systems. They are enablers and mediums for achieving people’s and communities’ conceptualizations and ideas.

Take interaction on social media spaces such as X and TikTok as an example; before technology made these ‘virtual palavers’ possible, interaction and communication were in person or through runners.

These technologies promise a brighter future by enhancing and making what already exists more efficient. At the core of their design stages lie the imperatives of refinement and augmentation of human experiences and the unwavering commitment to alleviating human suffering in any way possible.

Contemporary times continue to be characterized by conflicts causing unfathomable human suffering. The Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa best demonstrate this.

In the Horn and Great Lakes regions, a day hardly goes without the sounds of gunfire. We continue to see conflicts in the Congo, Sudan, Somalia, and other nations in these two regions. These conflicts are characterized by a complex web of political, ethnic, and economic factors, making them particularly challenging to resolve.

The Institute of Economics and Peace, a global think tank that ranks nations according to their levels of peacefulness using scientific models, paints a gory image of our region. Kenya and Ethiopia in the area are, for example, ranked 117 and 151 out of 163 Countries in a Global Peace Index report published in 2023.

Even then, there is an opportunity. Technology’s potential to upset the bases of conflict is infused in its fabric. Conflict is underlying. Overt manifestations of conflict in all ranges, from personal outbursts to wider-scale violence, including wars and armed conflicts between societal groups, are often manifestations of what underlies. Technologies, if well harnessed, can be disrupters. For example, youth-led initiatives using social media platforms to promote peace and dialogue have successfully challenged traditional power structures and narratives in several conflict-affected areas.

Bad governance, corruption, inequitable resource distribution, low levels of human capital characterized by deteriorated education and healthcare systems, bad business practices, and many other malaises, either alone or in concert, are harbingers of conflict within states and communities.

Adoption of technologies goes a long way in offering remedies.

The digitization of government payment systems demonstrates how technologies can be employed to fight vices such as corruption.

Taking the cue, organizations such as Rotary International have joined the call to harness the potential of both technologies and youth for sustainable peace and conflict transformation.

Rotary International is a global network of over 1.4 Million people working to create lasting change. The organization works in peacebuilding, fighting disease, providing clean water, saving mothers and children, providing education, and protecting the environment.

Rotary International in Kenya is under District 9212, including South Sudan, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. District 9212 has over 120 Rotary and Rotaract Clubs spread across the Country. These clubs have various projects that promote peace and harmony within communities using technology. For instance, the Rotary Club of Nairobi is implementing a project that uses mobile apps to facilitate dialogue and reconciliation among different ethnic groups in the region.

In this pursuit, the Rotary Club of Lang’ata donated a fully equipped computer lab to Kamburaini Primary School in Nyeri and Watamu Primary School in Kilifi, to name a few of the projects that Rotary Clubs in the district are employing to reap the dividend of youth and technology for peace.

According to Data Reportal, the internet penetration rate in Kenya is currently at about 40.8 percent, accounting for 22.7 million Kenyans who have access to the internet. Notably, the data show that most internet users in Kenya are young. While young people may not be represented as much in the planning and orchestrating of armed conflicts, they form a significant part of combatants in war. Equally, young people are the driving force behind technology adoption.

Recognizing the urgent need to leverage the youth and technology pillars for peace, governments, civil societies, and other actors should seize this opportunity and design conflict transformation interventions with youth and technologies as the key pillars.

Technology adoption will be the magic bullet for a safer globe if well harnessed.

Richie Olaka is a Rotary Peace Fellow and Ambassador with the Institute for Economics and Peace.

Richie Olaka
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