I have been invited recently to attend a workshop organized by Plan International on April 9-11 on how new information and communication technologies (ICTs) can support and protect Children on the Move.
Plan International USA received a grant from the Oak Foundation to examine the intersection of ICTs and children who migrate, known as children and youth on the move. The aims of the workshop was to share challenges and good practices around the intersecting areas of child protection, child-centered development programming, child and youth migration (voluntary and involuntary), and ICTs; and to provide input and feedback into the New Information and Communication Technologies and Children and Youth on the Move report. The idea would be that the experts’ feedback and input will be added to the report before its finalization and publication.
The report is intended to reach the general public, yet also to serve practitioners. While not an advocacy document, the report aims to contribute to the field by providing a review of current uses of ICTs among young migrants, which will serve as a springboard for further discussion, research, and ultimately more effective and relevant programming and support for children and youth on the move globally.
The document begins with a Background section including the reasoning behind the report itself, exploration of the field of information and communication technologies and their relevance and utility to children, youth and migrant populations.
The next section explores the Needs of children and youth on the move and potential gaps in information, service provision, and other areas. Also considered are the tools children and youth on the move already have, the unique context and population of children and youth who move, the origin and destination locations, and the stage of migration of the children and young people.
The following section outlines Access to ICTs in general by children, migrants, and children and youth on the move as a way of better understanding which tools may be in use in local contexts, and the levels of access to them that children and youth may have.
The core of the research is presented in the How are ICTs currently used to support and protect children and youth on the move section. The data presented provide insight into the tools and methods being used by children and youth for self-protection and by agencies and other stakeholders.
The findings present a wide-ranging view of the levels of access and use of ICTs by children and youth on the move in various contexts and stages of movement. The data reveal that children and youth on the move, and those who support them, use ICTs for four main purposes: 1) communication and connection; 2) access to information; 3) access to services; and 4) organization and advocacy.
The final section Integrating ICTs into support and protection work with children and youth on the move looks at some existing good practice in designing programs that integrate ICTs, and examines how they might be adapted to programming with children and youth on the move, given their often unstable and unpredictable settings and the need to consider equity and protection around ICT use.
The last section on What next? Will offer recommendations on subsequent areas of exploration of ICTs for children and youth on the move and protection work. For example, good program design with ICTs is critical for programs that are sustainable, effective, and that create lasting impact for children and youth on the move.
The research reflects a rights-based approach to children and youth. The report considers children and youth on the move as agents, not as victims, who continue to be entitled to rights. All movement of children is not considered negative or in need of prevention, as sometimes movement is necessary for the best interest of the young person. Yet the international community must work together to ensure that all children and youth, no matter the location or circumstance, have a right to protection and safety.
The workshop was a very good chance to start a conversation before the report get published on what are the actual needs and gaps that the report should address and to gather preliminary impressions and ideas on the first draft.
So what were the outcomes of the 3 days workshop?
- When it comes to ICTs it is very important to differentiate in between policies and best practices. The discussion about this topic sparkled from the fact that while we all recognized the importance in influencing policed when it comes to use ICTs for development projects, we also realized that working on policies is a totally different scope than focusing on the best practices and lessons learned for practitioners. Almost the majority of the participants agreed on the fact that right now it is much more realistic to look at what practical suggestions and tips can be provided to practitioners that are working in the field related to Children on the move.
- Is there a need for specific guidelines for ICTs and Children on the move? This was a very interesting conversation and definitely not an isolated one. The issue here is more complex than we image: tons of discussions, panels, and conferences are happening around the broader topic of ICT4D. But Development as a general topic cannot be used and considered as one generic field. Education, migration, health, media, government, infrastructures and so on, are all part of it and themselves very different field. The question though remains: is that possible to develop generic guidelines for the use of ICTs in all those fields, or would it be better to develop specific guidelines for each one of them?
- How to balance in between the need to protect from and the need to encourage the use of ICTs? One of the very interesting findings of the initial desk research done by the authors of the report is a comprehensive summary of the use of ICT by children during the migration/move phases. In this section of the report the use ICT as enabler for those children emerge very evidently. Children can use ICTs in their journeys to keep contact with their families, find people that can help them, facilities and services, earn money, access job opportunities and useful information. On the other side, ICT brings with the it risks and possible threats. How to make sure we tap into the positive and benefic effects of using ICTs while making sure that children using ICTs are protected from its possible risks?
- ICTs for and ICTs from children. Another very interesting conversation focused around the ICTs by the organizations supporting Children on the Move and the use of ICTs by the Children themselves. Of sources some of those uses are just two faces of the same coin, but in developing strategies and recommendations, it is important to divide the two. When looking at the uses of ICTs by Children in fact the focus will be more on Ivts as enabling information provision, connections, and earning opportunities. When it comes to the use of ICTs by organizations the focus will be more on information organization and gathering, tracking and management. In those two different situations tools, recommendations and best practices will be very different.
In this all discussions several other topics emerged that I would like to work more closely on, and namely:
- What is the role of local media and their impact on Children on the move? Is there a role that local media can play in supporting their journey and in encouraging a beneficial (and safe) role of ICTs from their part?
- How can be best use media produced by children and by youth in this specific issue? Is there enough space for children and youth generated content in this space? And if there is not, how to increase it in a way that support them and do not put tem in danger?
- How can we use ICTs to increase the knowledge of digital security and educate on the risks and threats posed by ICTs themselves? Is there a way in which we leverage one tool to educate about how to use the same tool? May be gaming part of the solution?
We hope Plan will continue this interesting conversation and we are looking forward to see the final report or the second draft, and see how we, as a community, can address this topic!