|by Franziska Seel|
|Published on: May 30, 2005|
|Together with a group of friends from all around the world, Angelicum Oda from the Philippines has started a website centered project called "Young MDG" to educate children and young people about the Millennium Development Goals. I've conducted an interview with Angelicum to learn more about his objectives for creating the website and why he thinks it's important that youth-friendly websites educate young people about the Goals.
Franziska: Angelicum, together with a group of other young people you’ve developed an amazing website on the MDGs – apparently the first one targeted specifically towards children. When and how did you come up with this idea?
Angelicum: In 2002, I was invited by our UN Country office, together with other Youth organizations to be a part of the National Coordinating Committee for the Global Youth Service Day, a Global Youth Action Network Initiative. After introducing ourselves and the welcoming note, brainstorming for a possible “theme” of that year's event was next to the agenda, different ideas came out and lastly, the UN Country coordinator suggests “MDGs and Youth” to be the theme. To her surprise, only 2 or 3 out of almost 30 people inside the room knew about the MDGs, I for myself didn't know what the MDGs were. She then explained it to us for almost an hour and I was deeply moved by the importance of it, and realized how unsuccessful the dissemination of the MDGs in our country was. She also stressed that we, the Youth and Young People, are the key-contributors in achieving the Goals, but how will we be able to help if we don't have the knowledge about the MDGs in the first place? I'm so lucky I was in that conference room, and I thought, how about the young people outside of this building, the ordinary people? I assumed, that not even a random guy on the nearby mall knew what the MDGs were.
Aside from that, I was appointed by UNV Philippines to be their online editor and web developer and my work for them gave me an even deeper understanding of the MDGs and pushed me even more to start the “Young MDG” project.
Franziska: Why do you feel it’s important to have a website specifically for children?
Angelicum: Knowing that the new generation of young people can maximize and minimize Internet Explorer windows and surf the net for cool games even before there moms stop spoon-feeding them, I first and foremost believed that if there should be a medium to publish an educational material for children around the world, then it is the web. The cheapest but the most accessible and engaging way possible. I feel it is essential to have a website about the MDGs specifically targeted for children simply because I haven't seen one yet. Children, specially those who don't use English as their first language will find it hard to understand what was offered at the present time when you search about the MDGs on search engines. Who wants formal-sounding explanations anyway? Young people easily get bored and the issue of the MDGs is so important that we have to find ways to make these people interested in reading an MDG site. That's why we are developing the “young mdg” website in a way that it will be colorful and interactive.
Franziska: What I think is really unique about your project is that you are working with a team of teenagers from all over the world. Where did you find your teammates? And why did you think it’s important that the team is international?
Angelicum: When I was just about to start making the website, I had already planned to gather people from different continents because I believe, the MDGs being a global issue, should also have a global perspective specially when we are trying to explain them to children in all parts of the world. As I was drafting the site-plan, a generous offer of help from Van Truong, also an award winning ICT practitioner, agreed to be a part of the team. She was in charge of finding team members and as much as possible, we wanted new members to be from different countries. Being on an international team made us realize different aspects of life. It's also a benefit to have members from under-developed, developing and developed countries, because we were able to share different points of views in constructing the site that is of international quality.
Franziska: Working together with a team of young people who are all based thousands of miles away and who live in different time zones is probably a big challenge. Can you tell me a bit more about how you are managing your work?
Angelicum: ICT4D – “Information and Communication Technology for Development” as they call it. We use basic technologies to brainstorm, communicate and submit contents.
First, we use a Message Board to communicate on a daily basis. It is where we share initial ideas, share resources, submit contents and finalize decisions. On it is a thread with a table of all of our timelines, so we get to know what time is it where and who's awake or asleep. At times we were also conducting live net-meetings through Instant Messengers.
It is also a privilege for us winning the Childnet Academy 2005 held in Jamaica as me and two of my team members Van (USA) and Jaevion (Jamaica) were thus able to meet and talk a bit about the website.
Franziska: You briefly mentioned to me that the website is only the first part of a much bigger MDG project. What other activities are you still planning to do?
Angelicum: Yes, youngmdg.com is our first step. We have an initial funding enough to print different MDG materials, again targeted for children and young people. We are planning to have these materials distributed to those who don't have internet access and computers, in some parts of Nigeria and South Africa for example.
We're also drafting a project plan for each of the MDGs, basically to raise awareness and promote positive use of technology in trying to achieve the Goals. We will be glad to replicate what others have done in their community to promote this cause and we're hoping that our ideas too will be realized by other young people.
Franziska: Thank you Angelicum for this interview and good luck with your Young MDG project!
To find out more about the project please visit the Young MDG website.