March 16, 2006

INTERVIEWS: Dario Ghisletta: "When talking to young people about democracy and local life, we must use the technologies familiar to them"

Dario Ghisletta: "When talking to young people about democracy and local life, we must use the technologies familiar to them"

Interview with Dario Ghisletta : Swiss member of the Chamber of Local Authorities

Dario Ghisletta, who has written a report on the use of new information technologies for raising young people's awareness of local democracy, is a Swiss member of the Chamber of Local Authorities. He urges municipalities to adopt techniques and methods which will enable them to get their message across to young people.

While local authorities are doing a lot to get themselves better known among young people, your report points to the still too infrequent use made for this purpose of new information and communication technologies (ICTs). How can local authorities use ICTs for the benefit of young people, and for what purpose?

Local authorities offer their support to various associations, youth meetings and concerts, but when it comes to ICTs they often just place a few pages on the Web featuring meeting reports or practical information. But young people know exactly what they are doing with all these technologies and use them all the time. Local authorities could make good use of them to help youngsters to understand what local life is all about and how it works. ICTs are suitable instruments for pursuing all the Congress' objectives in terms of youth participation, including the combating of both social and geographical exclusion.

Should local authorities design "new media" specifically for young people, and how could they get them to use these?

Many experiments conducted in Europe have shown that young people's interest in local life can be aroused through ICTs if these are made sufficiently attractive to them. Young people must therefore be regarded not just as "users", but as players with a role in local life. For example, there must be an opportunity for them to give their views of their own town, using the Internet for their blogs and forums, choosing and talking about the things they consider important. There are some local websites which allow them to write their own reports and publish photos, as well as placing items of their own choice, in a spirit of dialogue and openness to others.

In order to talk about democracy and local life to young people, we must avoid propaganda or the use of overly institutional or austere language, offering practical information instead. Young people like to meet, and music is very important to them: if they can be encouraged to talk about such matters, the opportunity will also arise to tackle other issues relating to participation and public life.

How can local authorities be trained and equipped to implement such a strategy successfully?

Answer: Young people know much more about technical progress than adults. We must not confine ourselves to a single technology, but use every vehicle of communication, from phones, video and the Internet to television and radio. It is young people who know best what they need, and local authorities ought to invite them to help to devise appropriate strategies. The Congress is at the moment defining good practice in communication with young people, and means must also be found of preventing misuse of such techniques, by which I mean access to extremist or dangerous sites, for instance. Finally, where ICT are concerned, local authorities should also co-operate with regions, the world of education and the European institutions.



Chris Schuepp
Young People's Media Network - Coordinator
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