Network Readiness Index webinar discusses youth and digital transformation, challenges to media literacy and active citizenship

February 8, 2023

February 8, 2023

View the event recording. 


As we enter a new digital era and consider how digital technologies will continue to impact our lives in the coming years, it is important to understand the challenges and opportunities facing today’s youth, or “digitally native” generations, who will play a key role in shaping the next stages of our future. If today’s youth is indeed expected to play the leading role in this global process, we must understand what goals and purposes will drive their efforts, their degree of readiness to do so, and how institutions can contribute to this readiness while empowering youth to be active, vigilant digital citizens. 

Today’s webinar brought together experts from academia and civil society organizations to continue these discussions around youth and digital transformation, following the publication of the Network Readiness Index (NRI) last November.


“Through events that give a platform to experts working on these critical issues, we are occupying the technology space with the right conversations, and contributing to its equitable development.”

– Rafael Escalona Reynoso, CEO, Portulans Institute


A presentation of key Network Readiness Index 2022 results and takeaways by Portulans Institute CEO Rafael Escalona Reynoso highlighted the importance of harnessing timely, appropriate metrics for tracking and assessing digital transformation and its effects across generations and regions. The report’s results point to the difference in digital contexts experienced by youth around the world, particularly those in developing countries, where lack of stable internet and access to the right digital tools is still lacking. As the demand for digital skills increases, such disparities in access and connectivity will only amplify existing divides among, as well as within, national economies and regions. Such inequalities within these countries and regions may also hinder the ability of younger generations to meaningfully engage in the digital economy. Learn more at


“As we enter a new digital era, it is important to have the right metrics and a clear outline of what has happened in the past, so we can define proper courses of action for the future.” 


While there has been an acceleration in the uptake and usage of technologies (particularly mobile devices) across the board, the quality of access and connection must be considered. Dr. Bibi Reisdorf, Associate Professor, University of North Carolina at Charlotte emphasized on the importance of looking at technology access in a more nuanced way, taking into account quality of connection, the capacity for technology maintenance, and the affordability of devices. Such challenges remain present not only in developing countries, but in underserved regions of developed countries as well. Despite recent catch-ups in technology adoption, policy actors must also account for the quality of access and connectivity, and whether it adequately facilitates and enables the participation of youth in the digital space. 


“While we are seeing a catch up in technology access, the policy space must also pay attention to the quality of access and connectivity.”

– Dr. Bibi C. Reisdorf, Associate Professor, University of North Carolina at Charlotte


Beyond high-quality access and connectivity, digital and media literacy skills are also critical components to active digital citizenship and engagement. Thus, today’s formal education systems must provide younger generations with the right skills to navigate the digital world safely and effectively. Alexandre Le Voci Sayad, Co-Chair of the International Steering Committee, UNESCO Media and Information Literacy Alliance, highlighted a few best practices for promoting digital and media literacy, including the “cradle to grave” approach adopted by several European nations, which embeds digital skills in formal education from kindergarten to the university level. Digital education policies differ widely across the globe, therefore, key benchmarks and metrics for assessing which methods are most effective remain necessary. Nikos Panagiotou, President of DCN Global also encouraged approaching digital and media literacy as a civic education issue, not a technical one.


“In today’s society, digital and media literacy and fluency must be a lifelong learning process, supported by the formal education system and by public policies.”

– Alexandre Le Voci Sayad, Co-Chair of the International Steering Committee, UNESCO Media and Information Literacy Alliance


Trust in digital technologies also emerges as a key factor facilitating digital participation among younger generations. The presence of appropriate measures that safeguard and protect personal data is critical to fostering trust in technology, as is ensuring an understanding of the importance of personal data among all populations, and providing a means to protect that data. 


“We can’t rely on self-regulation of Big Tech. We need public good intervention in order to bridge digital divides, and sound regional and national policies. Collaboration is also necessary to promote best practices.”

– Nikos Panagiotou, President, DCN Global


Mariam Chaduneli, Senior Policy Associate at Portulans Institute, broke down some key misconceptions around digital natives and privacy. Digital natives are not as careless with their personal data as many think – if anything, they care more about their digital personas than previous generations, and desire more agency over how they are viewed online. To do so, they use their inherent knowledge of digital technologies to employ privacy controls over their personal data. In fact, over 60% of teens apply privacy filters to control how their social media uses their data (Pew Research Center). Gen Z will soon dominate the customer base, making it critical for companies to realize the demand for privacy-friendly design and features on social networking sites and e-commerce platforms. 


“There is a widespread misconception that digital natives don’t care about their privacy as much as digital immigrants because technology is integrated in every aspect of their lives. Many think that, because digital natives pursue lifestyles enabled and fueled by digital technology, they are quick to compromise privacy, which is not always the case.”

– Mariam Chaduneli, Senior Policy Associate, Portulans Institute


The event was moderated by Raashi Saxena, DCN Global team member, Asia.

Portulans Institute and DCN Global extend their appreciation to all who attended the event, as well as to the esteemed speakers and panelists who shared their valuable insights.

The full event recording can be viewed here

Learn more about the Network Readiness Index.

Learn more about DCN Global

Join the conversation on Portulans Institute’s LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram using #NRI2022.

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