Empowering Young Leaders in ICT
Yasas V. Abeywickrama, VP, Computer Society of Sri Lanka and Chairman of the International Young IT Group
It’s no secret that technology is changing the world. But when you stop and think about it, technology is created by people – often young people who are willing to challenge the status quo and do things differently.
Young entrepreneurs have created some of the world’s most dynamic and fastest-growing companies – companies like Facebook, Google, Instagram, Twitter, Uber and Skype were all founded by people in their 20s and 30s who went on to deliver revolutionary products that have changed the way we live.
Young people are changing the world. And not only the entrepreneurs whose ideas spawned these companies, but also many of the people who work behind the scenes to develop and implement these disruptive platforms and solutions are young.
So, you have an industry in ICT, Information and Communication Technology, which is driven and run by young people. And this will continue to increase as today’s digital natives find new and innovative ways to apply technology to improve peoples’ lives.
So if the industry is young and if the key drivers of that industry are young, then the supporting organizations, government bodies and industry groups should also reflect that. They should have young representation.
This issue is relevant not only for industry groups and professional bodies that influence the direction of their sector, but also for government and policy organizations making decisions and developing policies that relate to ICT and the information age.
It’s similar to the discussion about whether we have enough women in politics. Roughly, half the population is female, so you would expect a fair representation. But this is not the case and it leads to decisions and policies made by those who really don’t always fully appreciate the needs of that gender.
The lack of youth representation in ICT-related governing bodies and industry organizations is true for my homeland, Sri Lanka, and in my experience is true for most other countries.
To address this, we need to bring more young people into government ministries, departments and industry bodies related to ICT. This won’t happen overnight, but we need to take what steps we can to increase the representation, one young person at a time.
So what is the definition for being young? This is debatable, but under 35 might be a safe demarcation.
IFIP identified this gap several years ago and formed InterYIT (International Young IT Group) back in 2010. The international association for Young IT Professionals, InterYIT operates under the auspices of IFIP, the global federation of ICT societies and associations with membership of over 500,000 ICT professionals. InterYIT exists to encourage professionalism amongst young ICT practitioners; foster communication between different Young IT groups; and to provide opportunities for young professionals to connect, share knowledge and be recognized for their achievements.
IFIP also demonstrated leadership in this area at the recent IFIP General Assembly when I was elected a Councillor, making me the youngest person on IFIP’s peak decision-making body.
We need other industry bodies to follow IFIP’s example and include more young people at the highest levels, so that their ideas and perspectives can be shared, and to help these organizations to be more relevant to the people they hope to influence and lead.
Technology has become pervasive, changing every aspect of how to we live, work, communicate, transact and even relax. This is the future. Even social justice and democracy are closely linked to technology. We have seen what social media can do, both to bring people together and to corrupt and control. Every day, new apps are being launched that change the way we do things.
The ICT sector is creating a silent revolution. Youth are the pathfinders in that. Let’s recognize them and include them!
About Yasas V. Abeywickrama
Yasas Vishuddhi Abeywickrama is a prominent young thought leader in the IT/BPO Sector who has had direct industry exposure in USA, UK, Sri Lanka, Australia, India, Malaysia, Austria and Singapore. He co-founded Sri Lanka’s premier BPO Training organization, Lanka BPO Academy, is the current Vice President of the Computer Society of Sri Lanka and Chairman of the International Young ICT group which spans 41 nations.