‘Print Media – soon you’ll be out of business; better find an alternate way to impart information as social media is bulldozing you’ was the warning at a UN event last week by a final year Colombo University student studying international relations. This young Sri Lankan was implying that the print media, the traditional media [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Access to Internet should be included in SL Constitution as a right

Internet tool of the new industrial development, SL undergraduate says

‘Print Media – soon you’ll be out of business; better find an alternate way to impart information as social media is bulldozing you’ was the warning at a UN event last week by a final year Colombo University student studying international relations.

This young Sri Lankan was implying that the print media, the traditional media for decades, would vanish from the public eye in a matter of few years as the Internet is already forcing print media out.

The three panellists al the UNFPA event.

Making this statement was Senel Wanniarachchi, a final year student of the Colombo University who is doing International Relations and the Sri Lanka Youth Delegate for the United Nations, while participating as a panellist at the launch of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) ‘The State of the World’s Population 2014′ report in Colombo.

On the sidelines of the event, in answer to queries by the Business Times, Mr. Wanniarachchi said that the print media’s future is very bleak, as the social media is already invading that domain. He said that the ‘Newsweek’ magazine which has been one of the best known print media publications for many years has now stopped printing and gone online.

When one of the members in the audience among other things said that the people cannot afford the luxury of the Internet, Mr. Wanniarachchi conceded that there could be some problems in owning smart phones and computers. But said that the right to information is a fundamental right and therefore, access to Internet should be enshrined in the Constitution as a fundamental right like the right to information and other human rights.

He said that a few years ago “if I told someone that there is a gadget of the size of a chocolate bar that can be used to talk to anyone anywhere, in the world that person would not have believed that this was possible, but that has happened and this development is changing the whole lifestyle of human beings altogether”.

Specifically, for young people, he said, the Internet is doing three things – empowerment, accountability and information. These three things, he argued is why Internet is considered the tool of the new industrial revolution, because it shapes the way the world does business. It is the new cultural revolution since it has changed the way people interact with others; it is the new political revolution because it has re-shaped the whole concept of democracy.

In the case of empowerment, the Internet is low cost and simple; it’s not hard to learn. Some examples for the youth are – if a young person who can sing really well and no recording label is willing to give the singer an opportunity, then You Tube has given that singer an opportunity to record a video and post it online.

On the information part of it, he said that for thousands of years journalists have been the people who have toiled and even given their precious life to break the news, in providing a basic need – the right to information. Today, Mr. Wanniarachchi said the Internet has enabled anyone to share the news from their neighbourhood.

Example – News of the killing Osama Bin Laden was first broke on Twitter, before any journalist could have a hand in it.

He said that, on accountability, digital recording technology has enabled people to record videos from their smart phones and post them online.
An example is the Wariyapola incident, where he said the harassment of a woman at a railway station was recorded and posted online which created a sensational social media dialogue.

Alain Sibernaler, Representative, Sri Lanka; Country Director, Maldives, UNFPA launched the Report – ‘The Power of 1.8 billion – Adolescents, Youth and the Transformation of the Future – UNFPA State of the World Population 2014.

Following his launch, a panel discussion was held where three panallists – Mr. Wanniarachchi, Ms Jayathma Wickramanayake (Science Graduate, Colombo University who a few months ago had worked as a diplomat at the Sri Lankan Mission to the United Nations in New York) and Ajanthan Sivadas, a private sector executive and the winner of Emerging Young Leaders Award presented by the Ministry of Youth Affairs, took part.

There were more than 200 young men and women from all parts of the country at the launch ceremony. Explaining the UNFPA Report, Mr. Sibenaler said that UNFPA is the lead UN agency for delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. UNFPA expands the possibilities for women and young people to lead healthy and productive lives.

He said that the report highlights that developing countries with large youth populations could see their economies soar, provided they invest heavily in young people’s education and health and protect their rights and that the potential economic gains would be realised through a ‘demographic dividend’ .

He said that this occurs when a country’s working-age population is bigger than the population that is dependant and younger. But to maximise the dividend, he said that countries must ensure their young working-age populations are equipped to seize opportunities for jobs and other income earning possibilities.

The panel discussion, he said, with eminent young leaders in Sri Lanka to launch this report was aimed at hearing from young people the challenges and opportunities they face in terms of participating in decision-making, using new technologies and ensuring the youth voice in the global development agenda.

Mr. Sibenaler said that the UNFPA believes that these issues are most relevant to Sri Lanka now than ever before, as 15.6 per cent of the total population is between the ages of 15 – 24 years and the country has a one-time opportunity to reap the benefits of a demographic dividend.
On the world scene, he said that the world is home to 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 and noted that, “You are a powerful force, individually and collectively”.

In the sphere of opportunities, he said that young people are the innovators, creators, builders and leaders of the future. But, he said that they can transform the future only if they have skills, health and choices in life.

The demographic dividend is the window of opportunities, he said. Where there are relatively few children and few old people, the proportion of the population in the working age segment reaches an all-time high portraying a boom in young adults.

He said that the combined effect of this large working-age population and health, family, labour, financial, and human capital policies can affect cycles of wealth creation and said that investing in young people’s human capital can help countries reap a demographic dividend that can lift millions out of poverty and raise living standards.

Speaking of the East Asia experience, he said that in 1950, the Philippines, Thailand and the Republic of Korea all had about the same total population, around 20 million, and similar GDP, between $800 and $1,000. He said that fertility fell in South Korea, followed by Thailand and then the Philippines.

He pointed out that because of South Korea’s investments in education, health and voluntary family planning, fertility fell more quickly than in the other countries, resulting in fewer dependants and more resources available to create or expand businesses. Between 1950 and 2008, South Korea’s GDP grew about 2,200 per cent, while Thailand’s grew 970 per cent, and the Philippines’ grew only 170 per cent, he pointed out.

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