Digital creativity for social good – the European Youth Award
Are you young and do you feel like you could change the world? Then get your digital toolkit out and do it! The European Youth Award (EYA) is looking for websites and apps that harness the power of new technology to solve real-life problems. Read More
Today the average smartphone has more computing power than NASA needed to send people to the moon in 1969. And today more than 20 million individuals use the high-performance electronic devices they carry around in their pockets to play Candy Crush. Has information and communication technology (ICT) become so ubiquitous in our lives that we fail to recognize its potential for actual impact? Countless young Europeans who use ICT for social good are giving us hope that the answer is 'no'. An annual contest honors them for their commitment.
Are you young and do you feel like you could change the world?
Then get your digital toolkit out and do it! The European Youth Award (EYA) is looking for websites and apps that harness the power of new technology to solve real-life problems. The contest invites young developers under 30 to submit their innovations that address topics such as health, education, cultural diversity, sustainability, financial literacy and urban development and help shape Europe's future.
Let’s change the world!
The idea of employing technological progress for common good is nothing new. In 2003 the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) began looking for ways to make ICT and the rapid exchange of information that goes hand in hand with it accessible to everyone. Eleven years later, the theoretical framework provided by the WSIS, combined with the enthusiasm of millions of developers not afraid to take action, has blossomed into a number of achievements.
Today the average smartphone has more computing power than NASA needed to send people to the moon in 1969.
More and more people around the globe have access to ICT and shared knowledge. It is no longer unusual for farmers in Botswana to use a solar-powered notebook to search the internet for the perfect fertilizer for their crops, for example. Apps that track the heart rate of people with cardiovascular disease, or open-access Harvard lectures are also becoming commonplace.
But there is still a long way to go and even with more and more 'digital natives' reaching maturity the kind of technophile utopia, so many sci-fi writers have envisioned, the change needed might be many generations away. So EYA is providing an incentive for young people to take action on WSIS-targets, encouraging them to produce digital innovations with high potential for tangible success.
"Young people who enter the competition are actively using the Internet and mobiles to change the world for the better, while others are using them solely for entertainment and distraction", says Peter A. Bruck, Honorary President of EYA. With the Healthy Life, Smart Learning, Connecting Cultures, Go Green, Active Citizenship, Money Matters and Future Living categories, the contest addresses the goals defined by the Council of Europe and the European Digital Agenda 2020. Young citizens of 49 European countries are eligible to participate, which amounts to over 200 million people.
A European contest for European challenges
In past years the contest categories were geared towards supporting the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), while the latest incarnation shows a strong focus on European problems.
"Malaria and starvation are serious issues in many parts of the world, but not exactly the biggest threats to Europe's future. That's why we have decided to address European challenges instead this year, e.g. diabetes and obesity in the Healthy Life category", says Johannes Zeller, EYA’s PR manager .
Nevertheless, young change-makers with digital solutions that support the UN’s MDGs can still win a prize. But they are encouraged to apply for the World Summit Youth Award instead, EYA's international sister-award.
Organizing a contest with strong focus on European challenges seems reasonable, since the list of Europe's problems is also quite long. Johannes explains his motivation to keep looking for projects that can have a positive impact on Europe's future:
"Fifty percent of people are overweight, one in five is obese. Almost one in four youths is unemployed, and with growing income gaps, many working people also struggle to make ends meet. Then there are the vanishing natural resources, skyrocketing energy consumption, unresolved waste issues and so on and so forth."
But why me, why now?
"It's great to see that there are so many compassionate young people with innovative ideas out there", enthuses Birgit Kolb about her experience as EYA project manager. "However, sometimes we are confronted by the question: Why should I spend my spare time solving problems that are not my fault? I usually answer: Because you can! You have the technology, the creativity and the brains, so just find the courage to take the initiative and start working!"
Because you can!
"Besides, if we all keep turning away from global issues and decide to concentrate on getting to the highest possible level of Candy Crush instead", Johannes adds, "the future will not be very livable".
And of course there is another good reason to participate in the European Youth Award: the young people who enter the best projects (selected by an international jury) can win a trip to the EYA Festival in Graz. From November 19-21, renowned experts from creative fields will provide valuable feedback for their work, international student teams will help them develop their projects further, and they can network with the who’s who of Europe's digital community.
Excited to get to know the winners of #EYA2014?
Find out at EU-Youthaward.org