Young people believe internet access is a fundamental human right, but more must be done to tackle misinformation. Young people around the world have embraced their new digital reality, but they also believe it is crucial that this transformation has the proper safeguards in place to ensure it is as inclusive as possible. COVID-19 triggered a spike in internet use, as classrooms and offices shifted into virtual spaces. While this brought with it opportunities, it also exposed long-standing digital divides. Two-thirds of the world’s school-age children do not have an internet connection in their homes, and only about half of the global population has internet access. For children in need of fundamental 21st-century skills, this is unacceptable. 89% of the young people surveyed as part of The Davos Lab Youth Recovery Plan report published in 2021 believe digital access should be a fundamental human right. The largest percentage (27.2%) believe governments are the most important stakeholders when it comes to improving digital access, followed by telecom businesses (18.9%) and the manufacturers of electronics like phones (15.8%). Some specific recommendations made by young people and reflected in the report include offering more affordable data plans and sanctioning those responsible for internet shutdowns. However, increasing connectivity brings with it a need for more safeguards and greater resilience. While online spaces have brought people together in unprecedented ways and given a voice to many, without adequate education and protections misinformation is liable to polarize societies and provide a means for radicalizing and exploiting the vulnerable - particularly those who feel unheard. Young people surveyed as part of the Youth Recovery Plan report and in dialogue sessions held around the world argued in favour of a code of conduct to protect the vulnerable from the negative impacts of fake news, and help them discern fact from fiction online. A reconsideration of online content moderation is necessary, these young people said, not least due to the COVID-19 crisis and a related disintegration of trust in global governance - and due to the worsening of political partisanship and the resulting creation of digital echo chambers. The Youth Recovery Plan calls on tech companies to be more transparent about the spread of misinformation - and the young people surveyed as part of the report expect these companies to be held accountable.
Opinions on Digital Access and Safeguards