Young minds, big ideas: a reflection from the global youth summit on digital rights

By Tinashe Rufurwadzo (Communications and Digital Engagement Manager at the Global Network of People Living with HIV) and Molly Pugh-Jones (Advocacy Manager at STOPAIDS)

Imagine a world where 2.9 billion people are denied access to basic health information and services simply because they lack internet access. This is not science fiction; it is the harsh reality of the digital divide. This gap disproportionately affects women, girls, rural communities, and low-income populations, jeopardizing their fundamental rights to health, education, employment, among other fundamental human rights. 

The Digital Health and Rights Project (DHRP) exposes a troubling landscape. Many countries lack clear data protection laws, leaving users vulnerable to data breaches and privacy violations. Misinformation runs rampant online, further harming marginalised groups, including those living with HIV, who already face heightened risks of discrimination.

Technological giants prioritise profit over safety, leaving young activists especially vulnerable. A shocking 22% face online attacks weekly according to Amnesty International, a trend that is simply unacceptable. Summit delegates emphasised the need for digital literacy as a tool to empower young people that will equip them to avoid misinformation and disinformation, as well as to know their digital rights. The summit further highlighted the importance of continuous investment in meaningful youth engagement through youth-led and youth-driven interventions focused on digital governance.

We are fighting back.

The DHRP is a group of researchers, activists, and communities living with HIV who collaborate to conduct participatory action research in low- and middle-income countries, and advocate for a human rights-based approach to governance of digital technologies and artificial intelligence (AI). We empower young people and advocate for digital health and rights for marginalised communities. As project partner Caleb Masusu, Voice and Democracy Manager at Restless Development, says:

“Digital governance must encompass the diverse perspectives and needs of young people to ensure their active participation and representation in shaping the digital future. Ensuring inclusive decision-making processes and prioritizing accessibility empowers young voices to drive positive change in the digital transformation.”

At the recent Amnesty Global Youth Summit on Digital Health, held in Argentina, DHRP joined forces with a global community of over 100 delegates, including young leaders and digital rights advocates. In addition, the team led a workshop on digital rights and health which focused on the unique challenges and opportunities faced by young people and the intersection between digital rights and health. At the end of the session, participants had a better understanding of risks related to health data, and empowered to champion human rights in digital health within their communities and globally. 

Richard, Wakesho, and Tinashe at the Amnesty Youth Summit.

Wakesho Kililo, Youth Member of the Digital Health and Rights Project Ghana Community Advisory Group said of her experience:

“At the summit, I was inspired by how young people are eager to have their voices heard in digital transformation discussions. It was also refreshing to see the youth come up with great ideas for digital rights TikTok campaigns and to see them excited about the digital health rights project. The success of the summit was also a clear indication that more spaces should be created for young people to discuss their digital rights and their role in digital transformation.”

Richard Agodzo, Youth Coordinator at the Ghana Network of People Living with HIV, a member of DHRP, also attended the Summit. He said:

“I really enjoyed the Summit because it not only deepened my understanding of digital rights but also connected me with inspiring young leaders from around the globe, united by a shared vision of a more inclusive and secure digital future.” 

“Young people are critical voices in the digital transformation because their fresh perspectives and inherent understanding of technology pave the way for innovative solutions that will shape our digital future. Their active participation in forums like the Global Youth Summit on Digital Rights is essential not only in safeguarding their own digital rights but also in ensuring a diverse, inclusive, and equitable digital landscape for generations to come.”

A lot still needs to be done for making the digital space safe and ensuring that no-one is being left behind. Therefore, we urge you to join us in advocating for the following:

• Governments and development agencies must prioritise dismantling barriers to online access and empowerment, particularly for youth and marginalised groups. They must actively promote digital literacy and inclusion.

• Young people and marginalised groups deserve a voice. Upholding their right to participate in shaping the policies and governance of digital technologies and artificial intelligence is crucial.

• Human rights mechanisms must hold governments accountable for upholding human rights in their digital policies and regulations. Development agencies must also integrate human rights into their practices regarding digital technology. Additionally, we must curb exploitative practices like data extractivism and data colonialism that target vulnerable populations.

To learn more about DHRP and follow our work find us at @DigHealthRights or email Molly, Advocacy Manager at STOPAIDS – molly-pj@stopaids.org.uk


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Young minds, big ideas: a reflection from the global youth summit on digital rights

by Molly Pugh-Jones Reading time: 3 min
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