Born with the third screen, the Net generation or digital grown ups to quote Don Tapscott, don’t use their mobile phone to call someone but rather to tweet, take a photo and upload it on Instagram, record a video and share it on Snapchat, play an online video game, send instant messages to their group of friends on What’sup: in other words communication as usual… but completely different.
Disruptive technologies such as the Internet or social media gave birth to the often called “third industrial revolution” and the “informational society” to quote Manuel Castells. The Net Generation encompasses people who were born since the generalization of new information and communication technologies (ICTs).
For the first time in history, this generation know more about the dominant technology than their parents. Indeed, they are used to looking up the information they need on the web: they are not just passively consuming, but actively customizing the information they wish to obtain through Twitter, RSS news feeds, news agency websites, blogs, or Facebook profiles. They wish to tailor what they consume, which means standard products or services are not appealing for these users anymore. They need unique, tailor-made, real-time solutions that respond directly to their needs and desires. The success of Netflix is good example of this change: they choose to stream series online instead of waiting for a TV channel to showcase their favorite show.
Thanks to the internet, they can customize or even design their own cloths, and order any product from all around the world. If they have a question, they ask Siri or Google. Trends emerge everywhere simultaneously from peer to peer forums, blogs or user-generated news website such as Reddit. Being part of an online community, share your feelings at each moment of the day, comment on values or ideas has led to move forward the frontier between intimacy and public space.
Public figures have become aware of this need of sharing and the opportunity it represents to get in touch with people. Obama, for instance, created an online platform for his two presidential campaigns where potential voters could discuss issues relevant to them and make their views available to the President. This openness and transparence was probably one of the factors that led to his popularity among younger voters.
Since a few years, the first wave of the Net generation is entering the workforce. This generation is bigger than the baby boomers: 80 million compared to 78 million in the USA alone. In other parts of the world such as Asia or Africa, they represent an even bigger part of society. This generation with ownership of online tools becomes a powerful force to change societies.
Similarly to the printing press, which enabled great thinkers to share knowledge more freely and led to the emergence of the Renaissance, the generalization of new ICTs are contributing to the emergence of a new generation and probably a new type of society where the so called Internet values of cooperation, participation and transparency will prevail.
A successful example of the influence of Internet values on the international agenda is the “Save the Narmada Movement” in India. A dam project, co-funded by the World Bank in 1989, was aiming to build thirty large, 135 medium and 3000 small dams in Narmada Valley in Madhaya Pradesh and Maharashtra, flooding an estimated 120,000,000 hectares of land and displacing more than 300,000 people.
In response to that threat, a group of indigenous people formed the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save the Narmada Movement), which organised protests and managed to create links with many other Indian groups and CSOs. Sixty thousand indigenous landless laborers and peasants gathered to protest against the construction of these dams. Local protests were coordinated with political pressure by international non-governmental organizations such as the environmental defense fund in Washington, Survival International in London, and Friends of the Earth in Tokyo.
In response to these local to global protests, the World Bank and its partners decided to call off the project. According to the official in charge of the project, the international networking was pivotal to the World Bank’s decision of cancelling the project.
In an globalised world where most public goods can only be managed on a global scale and through multi-stakeholders process, the role the global civil society has to play is crucial and key to future successful international negotiations, in particular since Agenda 21 urged states to take any legislative measures necessary to enable the establishment by CSOs to protect the public interest through legal action