By: Trixia Apiado, School of Foreign Service, Class of 2018
Growing up as a kid in the Philippines, I remember having a library in my elementary school. I knew there were books and a computer in the library, but I wouldn’t be able tell you how many books there were or what the computer looked like because the students weren’t allowed inside. I doubt there were many books, and I am sure the computer didn’t work.
When my family immigrated to Ohio during my middle and high school years, my siblings and I found ourselves spending a lot of time in the public libraries. Maybe it was the novelty of being allowed in, or the sheer magnitude of information that was just now at our eager, curious fingertips. We read and checked out hundreds of books and used the library computers to learn about everything.
That was my first experience with computers and the internet. And now, I couldn’t imagine not having a smartphone to constantly check and answer emails, or a computer to use for my assignments, work, and, more importantly, to explore and learn about the world.
So what does all this have to do with the World Bank?
Every year, the World Bank publishes a report on a development topic. For 2016, the topic is “Internet for Development.” The World Bank is closely looking into how the internet has profoundly affected the lives of billions of people both in the developed and the developing world.
As this report touches greatly on the impact of the internet on young adults, they did what good researches are supposed to do: engage with, interview, and talk with their audience of interest. And that’s where my classmates, Caroline Egan, Geeva Gopalkrishnan, Innocent Ndubuisi-Obi, Mike Fox, Erin Hickok, Simon Rhee, Jenna Clifford, and I come in. The World Bank tapped Georgetown University’s Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation to invite students to share their feedback and experiences as they relate to the internet, privacy, and security to inform their report from a millennial perspective.
As digital natives, we are the first generation to have grown up with the internet, using it in every aspect of our lives since we learned to talk and walk. The World Bank experts wanted to learn from us how access to the internet has shaped our lives, what our concerns are around privacy, and how we see it affecting everything from economics to politics to development.
During the conversation with the report’s working group, we shared our perspective on the trade-off between privacy and convenience. The general consensus within our group was that our generation freely gives up private information to commercial and government entities because we see the instant benefits and do not fully comprehend the risks. For instance, every day we post details of our lives on Facebook, use “Likes” to save our preferences and interests, and give up our geo-locations for Google Maps and Uber, without much thought on how our individual and collective data will be used. In any case, we are not willing to forgo the benefits because of the risks, and we acknowledged that many of us have faith that the government will eventually do its part to regulate how the commercial sector can use our information. We discussed the reality that some members of other generations (and other members of our own generation) have very different views.
During the meeting, our group also expressed that local and national governments could better utilize digital platforms to more effectively engage citizens, ask for their feedback, and more transparently include them in the democratic process. As millennials, we want to be engaged by our governments. We have feedback and ideas we want to share to impact policy, make a change, and shape the future of our country. We want to engage in a real, authentic dialogue with our officials, the kind of dialogue that can only be achieved online – communication that is two-way, in real-time, and at scale.
I came to Georgetown to learn from people and organizations that are the best in their field – organizations like the World Bank. But because of that, I spend quite a lot of time in classrooms quite literally being “talked at,” and always learning, as opposed to being the teacher. And I don’t mind that – it’s part of the university experience. But it was a welcome change of pace to be invited to share my views and opinions, especially with such an esteemed group of World Bank experts.
Little did I know that I would be educating them too, especially on the intricacies of Facebook, Twitter, and even . . . Tinder. That’s the kind of dialogue that schools, governments, and organizations need to share more – a two-way conversation between the “expert” and the “user.”
And now you can join the conversation! Don’t miss the chance to contribute your ideas and perspectives to the “2016 World Development Report – Internet for Development” on how digital technologies are impacting growth, jobs, and public services. A new question will be posted every Thursday at 9:00 a.m. EST. So go to the poll to vote, comment, and the view results!
The views, opinions, and positions expressed by the author of this article do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University or any employee thereof.