Brief session description:
Monday, April 23, 2012 – Social networking has been an ever-growing source of power and influence over the last few years. But as far as its reach grows, the questions it creates also extend in broad ways, especially as social networking becomes the main source of communication between young people. This session was aimed at inspiring an illuminating discussion of the role of social networking in today’s society, how that role might evolve and how future development might be guided to a certain extent by outside influences.
Details of the session:
Session moderator was Reggie Henry, chief technology officer at the American Society of Association Executives. Participants included: Slim Amamou, chief technology officer at ALIXSYS; Tarek Kamel, member of the board of the National Telecom Regulatory Authority of Egypt and former Minister of Communications and Information Technology of Egypt; Garrett McNamara, entrepreneur and information security specialist; Paco Ragageles, president of Futura Networks and cofounder of Campus Party; and Aminata Sy, president of the Senegalese Next Generation Team.
Facebook. Twitter. Foursquare. LinkedIn. Tumblr. And the list goes on and on and on. Love ’em or hate ’em, social media sites play a major role in the business and social spheres of today’s world and the ways in which youth use and utilize these sites was the subject of Monday afternoon’s panel, “Youth and Social Networking: Redefining Business and Society.” Through topics and questions introduced by moderator Reggie Henry, chief technology officer of the American Society of Association. Executives, the panelists themselves, remote participants and audience members a discussion emerged that focused on what youth using social media are capable of and what needs to be done to allow youth to continue to safely use these sites.
Political impact of social networking
In the last two years, the power of the social media site has been clearly demonstrated, through uprisings and evolutions in nations throughout the world, particularly in the Middle East. Panelist Slim Amamou, CTO of ALIXSYS was imprisoned during the revolution in Tunisia and was then given a government position (from which he resigned when the new regime resumed Internet censorship.) In Tunisia, Amamou said people took over the role of traditional media, providing information on uprisings and riots.
“We took it on ourselves to report on what was happening,” he said, which led to a snowball effect. “Soon, the whole country was protesting.”
Amamou said social networks allow for a development of a collective consciousness.
“Nobody and everybody had this idea at the same time,” he said.
Panelist Tarek Kamel was on the opposite side of protests in a country. Kamel, the “father” of the Internet and current minister of Communications and Information Technology in Egypt, was forced to cut Internet access across the country during the revolution, because it is permitted by law.
“I have been working for an affordable and open Internet over the last 20 years in Egypt,” he said, adding that he tried to restore services as quickly as he could.
Despite this event in early 2010, Egypt is an Internet-access success story. Kamel said there are 30 million Internet users nation-wide, a 30-fold increase since 1999. Mobile penetration has exceeded 100 percent, with 90 million mobile users. Additionally, in the Arab countries in general, there are about 45 million Facebook users, which is about 5 percent of all users, and reflective of the proportion of the Arab population across the globe. He also pointed out that women make up 40 percent of Arab Facebook and Twitter users, a high number considering the conservative social nature of much of the population. Worldwide, that number is about 60 percent.
Kamel said a recent poll showed that 71 percent of Egyptians will not vote for someone in the upcoming elections who do not have a presence online, a statistic not shocking based on the testimony by panelist Aminata Sy, president of the Senegalese Next Generation Team, who said that social media played a critical role in her nation’s presidential elections several weeks ago.
“The use of social networks, mainly Facebook and Twitter, allowed young Senegalese to play a very important role during this electoral process,” Sy said through a translator. “It was e-awareness that led us to e-revolution.”
Senegal, she said, has around 700,000 registered users on social networks, which fit her society’s culture well because it is centered around talking and sharing stories.
A remote participant from Ghana asked what lessons the rest of Africa could learn from the Senegalese elections.
Sy said it is important for young people to learn to avoid the negative aspects of demonstrations, which she said can be deplorable in some cases, but not to blame on social networks.
Social networks are not evil
Among the discussion about youth and how they utilize social networks was a general concern over safety, both online and off. Several panelists, like Sy, made the point that the social networks themselves are never to blame for unfortunate incidents.
“There is no bad side of the Internet,” said Amamou, “There is simply [a] bad side of the people.”
Paco Ragageles, president of Future Networks and cofounder of Campus Party, said education is key. Social networks, he said, are extremely powerful tools in the hands of young people. He equated it to teaching children to look both ways before crossing the street and not speaking to strangers.
“We have to teach them common sense,” he said, through a translator.
The topic of education also spanned beyond education other users through content and educating young users how to access that content. One remote participant wanted to know how social media should be introduced and reinforced in education systems around the world.
Kamel said connectivity levels seen in the United States and western Europe are not typical all over the world and greater connectivity must be achieved because the next big theme in education is collaborative learning, between students in different schools and universities, not just in one building.
“If we add multilingualism on top of that, the whole mission becomes much more difficult,” he said.
The same remote participant asked about the implications of social media on worldwide markets. Garrett McNamara, an entrepreneur and information security specialist, said at the very beginning that becoming active on blogs and social media sites was important because it made you more marketable to employees since you can have an influence on your followers.
Ragageles echoed this, emphasizing the importance of being active on social networks like LinkedIn when searching for a job.
In the future, the panelists predicted that the Internet would continue to evolve as a tool and that people would continue to use social networks as a means for growth and change. Ragageles said that in the future, no one will talk about the Internet because that would be like talking about electricity.
Moderator Reggie Henry finished by summarizing that very soon the Internet will no longer be considered technology, it will just be part of culture.
– Reporter: Rachel Southmayd
A selection of Twitter Reports from this ISOC 20th event:
1st round of #ISOC 20 breakouts about to get under way. Youth and Social Networking: Redefining Business and Society #GlobalINET
Youth & Social Panel includes: Slim Amamou @slim404, CTO at ALIXSYS #ISOC 20 #GlobalINET
Youth & Social Panel: Tarek Kamel, “Father of Internet” in #Egypt – part of Arab Spring #ISOC 20 #GlobalINET
Youth & Social Panel: Garret McNamara, cohost, “Money Majors” podcast at ‘12 Consumer Elec. Show #ISOC 20 #GlobalINET
Youth & Social Panel: Paco Ragageles @pacoragageles, founder of @CampusParty and #Somethingbetter movement #ISOC 20 #GlobalINET
Youth & Social Panel: Aminata Sy president of the Senegalese Next Generation Team #ISOC 20 #GlobalINET
The multimedia reporting team for Imagining the Internet at the Internet Society’s 20th Anniversary Global INET Conference included the following Elon University students, faculty, staff and friends: Jacquie Adams, Dan Anderson, Janna Anderson, Kacie Anderson, Nicole Chadwick, Jeff Flitter, Addie Haney, Brandon Marshall, Brian Meyer, Caitlin O’Donnell, Rachel Southmayd and Rebecca Smith.