Young people have a crucial role in decision-making processes, planning, development, implementation and evaluation of digital health solutions. Although historically underserved and under-represented, the youth constituency is an active and energised one, which wants to see positive, transformative, and sustainable change in the world around them. This presents an opportunity to harness the immense potential of young people in transforming the future of healthcare through digital technologies and data to achieve Universal Health Coverage.
The universal digital divide continues to exclude marginalised and vulnerable individuals and groups, including young people, from the potential benefits and advantages of digital technology for health, limiting their abilities to fulfil essential health needs and rights. In addition, young people, because of their age-vulnerability and dependencies, often do not have the resources, skills or opportunities to effectively organise and advocate for their health rights and wellbeing.
WHY WE BELIEVE THIS PROBLEM EXISTS:
The design and decision-making processes on global digital health continue to be centred in the global north, with leadership of the agenda and approaches coming from stakeholders who do not always represent the contexts and constituencies of the end-user. This domain has lacked an intersectional approach and enough diverse representation, especially of vulnerable and marginalised groups, including young people and/or people from the global south.
False beliefs about young people
Young people are either seen as beneficiaries/users or data-points – missing their potential to be agents of change and leaders in their respective contexts. The infantilisation of young people and tokenisation of their participation and contributions to the digital health discourse poses a significant challenge to their meaningful engagement and empowerment.
Even when young people are willing and able to lead their own initiatives and programs to influence national and global decision-making processes, they often lack the information, capacity, partnership, funding, and organizational structures to do so effectively.
The absence of a universal governance and ethics framework for digital health jeopardises the rights and wellbeing of young people and other vulnerable groups.
Young people are the largest and growing demographic globally, and represent an immense potential and promise for shaping the future of digital health. However, they also continue to be a neglected and under-represented population group, facing multiple vulnerabilities and challenges. Being viewed as ‘digital natives’, young people can lead the way in digital health transformation and digitalised social paradigms, which will undeniably be an integral part of the world going forward. If supported and empowered, young people can facilitate transformative, inclusive, and sustainable change – from local to global levels. Young people are not only rights-holders, but also bearers of under-utilised potential that can transcend sectoral constraints and interests. They can decentralise power and decision making, bringing about greater ownership, impact, and accountability to social justice movements.