Ending world poverty one click at a time

Constantly refreshing your news feed is no longer a time-waster if you’re able to help save the world, writes Sarah Webb.

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Social media is more than its reputation – there’s no doubt that the future of international development is online. So it’s no surprise that there’s an endless stream of development projects trying to tap into these technologies, as it gives people the ability to connect from all parts of the world and share their experiences.

Therefore it’s impossible to underestimate the power of social media, especially when it comes to the world renowned hashtag. The sign placed in front of important events or moments in time, (#ebolavirus, #BostonMarathon), has allowed for a global-scale, live time-stamp on history.  We can follow a conversation from wherever we are in the world, and can contribute and discover information as it happens. The tiny, sideways tic-tac-toe icon is instigating change. Viral campaigns have spread throughout the ‘Twittersphere’, defying geographical constraints and inventing a global consciousness on what matters most.

If more people, particularly youth, increasingly used their privileged voices to document, share and learn alternative ways to fight extreme poverty, there’s a greater chance of reaching development goals by the end of 2015, and working towards saving the lives of over one billion in need.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says we can build a safer and just world. At the UNIS International Student Conference last year, he said, “to succeed… we need young people.” Twitter is a global conversation, strengthening ties between young people all over the world. It’s a virtual place to debate policies and decision-making processes determining the future of communities.

So as the 2015 deadline for development goals inches closer, a new framework is in the works for the next 15 years. It aims to focus on inequalities – issues youths are passionate about – from equal access to education, employment, health and justice, to gender equality and environmental issues like climate change. These are all concerns we can sum up in 140 characters or less, add to the global conversation, direct to global leaders and make change possible.

Sparking viral conversation.

Twitter shares not one story, but many. In a world first, the hashtag #2030NOW supported the Mashable live stream of the Social Good Summit, an initiative on the link between new media and poverty held in New York City in September 2013. The event coincided with UN Week and featured some big names – boy genius Jack Andraka, Ian Somerhalder, New Zealand’s former PM Helen Clark and Sir Richard Branson. The event spread to more than 120 countries and the global conversation continues to inspire long after its conclusion. The next Social Good Summit will be held in September this year.

The event takes a phenomenal step in fighting poverty, though there’s no short-term method. It would be naïve to suggest a social media site could end all the suffering in the world today. We have to work towards the future and ask ourselves, “What will the world look like in 2030?”, “Is it a better place to call home, now with the rise of innovative thinking and new media?”

Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, has a dream for the future dynamic of the world.

“If I just think 2030, the best thing I’d like to hear is a seven-year-old in Mali say, ‘Mama, I hear people used to be poor in Africa,’ because this child would just never understand what poverty is. That’s the world I’m dreaming about,” Phumzile said.

The power is with [you]th.

We’re the generation that holds the power to change the world. As a young person today, social media is an exciting tool in fighting extreme poverty. All youth should use their online influence to disseminate their ideas, challenge governments and help out those in need. We can work collectively and use the current and future technology to our advantage to help as many people as possible, to reduce suffering and improve quality of life.

Next time someone tells you to stop checking social media, tell them you’re saving the world. Join the global conversation!

Image: Esther Vargas- flikr, no changes made