By Asina Pornwasin
WHIZ kids from around the world gathered in Bangkok to show how digitilisation can be used to forge future peace and progress.
The Telenor Youth Forum 2017 is returning to Thailand for the second time in five years, with two Thai youngsters among the 24 delegates from Telenor markets - Thailand, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Hungary, Serbia, Montenegro and Bulgaria.
The delegates have been split into five teams. Each team has been working on digital solutions to a big social challenge. These are climate change and sustainable shopping, gender equality, education for refugees, unemployment and social instability, and mental health taboos.
Pannavat "Palm" Veeraburinon, 22, and Kadesiree "Kade" Thossaphonpaisan, 26, will be representing Thailand at the forum.
Palm is a member of the InterYou team, a digital platform that provides job interviewees with feedback on their weaknesses so they can improve their presentation and confidence.
Aiming to provide a solution for unemployed people and social instability, InterYou has received a grant of US$4,000 (Bt136,600) to develop the application and platform.
Palm has a degree in political science and a Facebook-based project for peace and technology entitled This is Me, which invited 90 experts in different areas from seven countries to share their stories. Joining the Telenor Youth Forum (TYF) has expanded his horizon even further.
"We all have the same goal here - a belief in peaceful means for peaceful outcomes," said Palm. "We want our futures to contribute to making a better world."
Kade is a member of GRIP - the Gender, Rights, Internet Platform - a collaborative interactive platform of NGOs, government and citizens seeking solutions to issues such as domestic violence. GRIP received $11,000 of funding via the forum.
Kade graduated in political science from Chulalongkorn and has been working as a journalist at Radio Free Asia focusing on environmental issues. Her main interest is in Laos and people living along the Mekong River.
"I want to be a storyteller, spreading stories of ordinary Mekong people impacted by development projects run by the government and private sector. As a member of the Mekong ICT Camp, I want to work on open data. After joining the TYF 2017, I got new ideas for my role," she said.
The Telenor Youth Forum, first held in 2013, is a global year-long programme hosted by Telenor Group and the Nobel Peace Centre.
Delegates receive guidance and mentoring from experts at organisations such as Unicef, the World Education Foundation, the Red Cross, Techfugees and Telenor Research. The mentors equip delegates with real-world skills such as service design, service and product prototyping, presenting, exhibiting and pitching, as well as insights on issues that can only be gained through hands-on experience.
Liv Torres, executive director at the Nobel Peace Centre, said the programme challenges delegates to find solutions to practical tasks and shows them how they can change the world through digital platforms.
"This is one of the few programmes I have seen that is so action-oriented, so constructive and so concrete," Torres said. "We are now all operating on the new platforms, social media has become very important. When [programme members] seek concrete new solutions using digital tools to solve challenges of today, they do come up with a lot of new ideas."
The group that comes up with best idea at TYF 2017 will be handed an invitation to the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony in Oslo, adds Torres, though all delegates will get the chance to showcase their work before an international audience in the Norwegian capital in October.
Torres said the value of the programme is, firstly, its international nature. The young delegates work together in groups, learning how to communicate with counterparts from other countries and finding out both their differences and what do they have in common. She compares it to a mini-United Nations, where international cooperation can produce very concrete solutions.
Secondly, while the delegates are few, they are role models for many. They are held up as shining examples in their communities for their constructive work, inspiring others to follow in their path.
"I have seen knowledge spreading but only to very limited parts of society," said Torres. "In all five [Telenor youth] groups I saw strong desire to spread that information more broadly. ... This is the crucial value of social media and new digital platform and tools. I see that in all their eyes: this is about making information available to broad groups who did not have it before - it is democratising information. They want to be useful and to contribute, and that is inspiring."
Torres notes that a growing focus in the West on the gap between tech trailblazers and the rest of society. Crucial to closing this gap is finding the right digital tools.
"We will not get positive changes in the world if ordinary people are not engaged and informed," she said.
When people think about peace, said Torres, they think about the crisis in the Middle East as well as in East Asia with North Korea, China and Japan. The technological revolution has a crucial role to play in preventing war, and the TYF programme is important in this effort. Through it, the next generation is creating solutions to the social challenges that are an important driver of conflict and humanitarian crises.
"If we find the concrete solutions to working in these areas, we can prevent conflict from happening. That is why we call it a peace programme," she said.
TYF 2017: Digitalisation for Peace
Telenor Youth Forum invites youths from Europe and Asia to share their ideas on digitalisation for peace. The forum brings these young tech leaders together to collaborate as teams in finding solutions to social challenges.
With gatherings in Oslo and in Bangkok, the TYF is a year-long programme run in collaboration with the Nobel Peace Centre. It aims to help transform the world by tackling social problems with digital solutions.
Selected TYF delegates work for a year in teams, each focusing on one social challenge. The overall aim is to foster understanding, prosperity and ultimately peace.
After the opening forum in Oslo, TYF 2017 youths will gather in Bangkok later this year to share and showcase the fruit of their effort. The culmination of this year-long commitment will be a digital exhibition at the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo, documenting the work of the teams, the social challenges faced and the progress made.