Guest blog by Abril Gomez, student at GAL School Cusco, Peru. Aged 15.
Technology and data are useful tools, that can help us to better understand the society we live in, and we are very fortunate to live in a time where these are developing at pace. We have a huge variety of apps at our fingertips which have been developed to make our lives easier; the data we access is almost constantly updated, be it news, photos, videos or memes. The problem really starts when we stop being critical of the data we consume, and we misuse them.
We must also be aware of how information could be used as evidence to achieve changes. As post-millennials we are much more connected with technology than any other generation before, and that is precisely why it is of the utmost importance to analyze the content we create before we dare to circulate it online. When we talk about the importance of “active, empowered citizens” with regard to public matters we usually think about adults, but what about us, the teenagers who are commonly referred to as “the country’s future”. Are we part of the population that can make any changes now?
As a teenager who lives in Cusco, I have felt on many occasions that my opinion has been devalued or ignored, regardless of whether the theme is politics, machismo, racism or sexism. I am almost certain that to this day I have not had many opportunities to present my ideas and for them to be been considered by a group of people who have the power to decide and implement changes.
Adults always talk about how someday some of us will assume important positions when we grow older. We will have to think about concepts and strategies to offer different solutions and develop action plans to drive changes to improve society; but how can we achieve an improved system if we do not start to practice now? What can we as teenagers do to participate as citizens?
As I mentioned before, today we count on a resource that other generations could not even dream of: Information Technology. Today, most of us own a smartphone and manage accounts on social networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Beyond their use for socialization, they can also be used as a tool to drive an impact on any given topic. But for this to happen we need to use our resources, so we are listened to and we must ally ourselves with adults who may help and guide us. An example of this is that myself and a group of friends created a project using OpenStreetMap, in which we mapped all the sexist publicity in Cusco, with an app called OSM Tracker by mapping our day to day to day taking pictures, notes or recording videos of these events to create evidence of the problem, after this process of collecting data, we analyze it, to see how deep it was, then we uploaded all the data to a website called Maphub, were we created our own map so we could show all the information and evidence we collected so we could present as a project. All of this was possible thanks to a HOTOSM and NetHope device grant.
Within our society, each of us plays a different role in terms of education, health etc. No matter whether we are in the public, private or civil sector, it is essential for us to learn from each other in order to work collaboratively and to participate efficiently in responding to the different problems that arise in our community. We hope that this collaborative work will help to increase our possibilities of success in our transition to a working and creative force and, who knows, maybe achieve the changes we dream for our country.