It was 3 a.m. on a Friday, and I was forcing myself to stay awake. You may be thinking, why was I doing this? I was participating in a challenge called Thriving Online, a four-day global expedition-style event where students from across the world work together to address a societal problem.
Throughout the weekend, I found myself in awe of the connectedness of the digital world. The ability to transcend borders at the click of a button and connect with a team located around the globe is something I think we often take for granted. Over half of the world’s population is connected to the Internet, with many spending anywhere from two to eight hours online every day. And now we are online more than ever due to the pandemic.
My team, which included students from Kenya, Canada, and Melbourne, Australia (like me), was lucky enough to focus on Thriving Online in a community sense. The idea behind the challenge was to try and answer the question: How can we go beyond mere survival and truly thrive in our communities while ensuring that our planet is thriving too? This is a nuanced question with no single right answer. We had inspirational talks, skills workshops, and virtual networking sessions to get our creative juices flowing and help our team connect to come up with possible solutions.
My team coalesced around the idea of connecting young female entrepreneurs in Kenya with digital resources to help them grow their businesses, educate their children, and lift their communities out of poverty — an idea that truly embodies the goal of Thriving Online.
While I was very impressed by our idea and the work we had done, what struck me was just how in awe of the digital world I was. The future is online, so should we not be doing everything in our power to protect it? If yes, why is it that we are so complacent about cyberattacks or nation-states waging cyberwar on each other? Why aren’t we doing anything about the weaponizing of cyberspace?
Probably because it’s a complex international issue, with many players, and it seems insurmountable. But it’s not. Digital citizens all over the world have the power to demand change from their governments and to create change within companies. Throughout the Thriving Online event, we proved that digital citizens across the globe can work together to find solutions to some of our world’s most challenging issues.
At the end of the 96 hours, I recognized the potential the digital world has to revolutionize the way future generations learn, connect, and develop. In the span of a long weekend, 12 teams, made up of students from all corners of the globe, came up with fascinating ideas that could become a reality one day. We had found ways for different businesses, communities, and educational institutions to truly thrive online — not just merely survive. We were all digital citizens, working, living, and thriving in cyberspace. And as digital citizens, it is our responsibility to protect the digital world.
— Written by Raj Burli, Digital Peace Now’s Global Ambassador.