Suresh and Jyoti were participants and speakers at the Global Forum for Youth and ICT for Development in Geneva as the youth ambassadors of NABU.

SWITZERLAND, GENEVA, 26th – 29th September

Yes, we had barely rubbed the gangrene from our limbs (intercontinental flights), thrown piles of clothes from one heap to another, deleted spam – uh, invitations to go out with friends – and piled the dirty dishes in the kitchen for our dear sister to wash, when again we had to pack our bags and hop, this time into trains, for Geneva.

The USA book tour and meetings with our German publisher left us quite breathless.  Next was a completely different challenge though, one of brainstorming, relationship forging and international diplomacy…  Can the Millennium Depelopment Goals be rescued by Youth and ICT?  *Sound epic music*  Read on to find out!

We had the honour of representing NABU – Knowledge Transfer Beyond Boundaries – at the United Nations Global Forum on Youth and ICT for Development (“Youth and ICT as Agents of Change”), a three-day event in Geneva, Switzerland (September 24th – 26th, 2007).

Organised by GAID, the Global Alliance for ICT (Information and Communication Technology) and Development of the United Nations, and her partner organisations, such as NABU, the Forum had panels and presentations on the one hand, workshops and break-out session discussions on the other.  As with most such conferences, perhaps the most interesting discussions took place outside the official gatherings.

Especially on the first day, the delays were staggering.  Many eminent speakers were present – too many, some said, which made for more fluff and less action; and certainly too many on each panel.  By the evening, the more outspoken youth voiced their concerns that, despite their appreciation for the heavyweights’ commitment to the cause, there was virtually no dialogue taking place and hence little movement.  After all, we wanted feasible Action Plans by the end of the conference and, what’s more, we needed to have drummed up and coordinated sufficient cooperation and dedication to have any chance of making the Plans workable.  Given the description of the event, “Uniting agents for change in an open discussion on technology’s role in advancing people’s lives”, we agreed.

(It was a pleasure to hear Adolf Ogi, “ex President of Switzerland“, as they put it – which I suppose is the only way to put it if you aren’t into Swiss politics – although his presentation was on Sports…!  Great speech, though.)

The following two mornings, youth gathered in a separate room for their own meetings to examine the role of ICT in their own lives, to ascertain the potential and power of youth to use this unprecedented tool to salvage the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and to discuss strategies for implementation.  It was a spontaneous, and honest, (and, above all, open) circle, with an all-youth panel on which Jyoti Guptara was selected as Europe’s representative.

Through the breakout sessions, organised by ATHGO, the participants were invited to design recommendations on how to overcome the challenges associated with, and utilize the opportunities provided by, the three main themes of the forum:
1. Youth, ICT and Education / Work
2. Youth, ICT and Health
3. Youth, ICT and Political Participation / Activism

We (Suresh and Jyoti) also had the privilege of speaking on the NABU Panel along with Arvind Kaila, President of NABU Advisory Council; Rajesh Lilothia, Indian Legislator; Debra Cole, NABU chief legal advisor; and guests from the Ministry of Education, Syria.  Our topic was: Building Human Capital and Intellectual Capacity.  The room was full, and after our presentation, we turned it over to the floor for comments, questions and, most conveniently, examples that the audience could give us of how they were doing what we had just talked about, which was satisfying to hear.

For us, a highlight of the Youth Summit was hearing about the various innovative ways in which the youth themselves are making a difference in the world.  It was an encouragement and inspiration to learn about their projects.

Outcome: Youth and ICT are cheap and highly effective resources for advancing the MDGs: the youth will bring the energy and innovation which can be joined with the expertise, financial backing and gravitas of the UN and its partner organisations and PPPs (Private Public Partnerships).  The dialogue and planning will now be continued over the internet, monitoring our progress as we evaluate our methods and activities.

We, the Guptara Twins, would like to thank Dr Dennis Anderson, Arvind Kaila and Bhaskar Sahrawat of NABU, and the United Nations GAID for this stimulating, educational experience and the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with a host of thinkers, decision makers and action takers.

Yours for advancing the MDGs through Youth and ICT, on behalf of NABU,

Suresh and Jyoti Guptara


More appearances and interviews back in Switzerland at WEGA, the local fair in Weinfelden; and at ZIS, the Zurich International School, whose students will also enter the Calaspia Competition.

But we must be writing books now and not diary imitations, for the noose of a deadline tightens around our young necks, challenging arthritic fingers to type faster, forcing bloodshot eyes to remain open late at night while our aching spine and numb legs sit forgotten like so much superfluous baggage; and so on.

We haven’t had a week solely for the books, nor a day to ourselves, in months (nor a summer holiday for years) … and in a few days, we go to Italy

Still not complaining!  Cheers,

Suresh and Jyoti Guptara