The next generation of tech leaders offer to bring the future to the table

Yacine Ndiaye, a member of Young Expert: Tech 4 Health.

The future is today. There is no time to waste. No one knows that better than young people. Every day, they make their voices heard to change the world, and Geneva is the perfect place to be part of decision-making processes.

Meet Yacine Ndiaye, 27 years old. She is part of the group Young Experts: Tech 4 Health (YE:T4H) formed to provide independent insight and counsel to Digital Transformation for Universal Health Coverage 2030, a global coalition on leveraging digital innovation to achieve quality healthcare for all. As an expert, she wants to use her knowledge to connect with the future.

This week, she was invited to speak at the Geneva-based AI for Good Global Summit. Her voice is strong, her discourse empowering. Today, Yacine is our reason for hope.

Geneva Solutions: What made you engage and become a tech for health expert?

Yacine Ndiaye: I don’t have a background in technology. I aspire to a career in global health. But, as technology is the future, it is something that I not only need to understand, but as a young person, who would be affected by its development, I ought to be part of the conversation. I’m a strong believer in education. Imagine how powerful education can become when associated with technology properly, like understanding your own health, having access to knowledge.

I just couldn’t let the opportunity of having my voice heard go by!

GS: What is the main issue when it comes to technology in health management?

YN: Equity. I can see the potential of technology in health, but the risks are high if things are not done right. And looking back at many global health issues, one can only note that equity was not at the heart of the process.

By equity, I don’t just mean who gets to use technology and who has access to it, but who actually makes it happen. Usually, technology is developed in one part of the world and used in another, because technology is driven by the private sector. That’s where the money is. And this creates a huge gap, which needs to be addressed because at the end of the day, we humans are making this technology. In other words, we translate who we are, our human view of the world into the algorithms as we create them. Whether we know it or not, technology reflects all our prejudices. This is why equity and diversity must be part of the process from the start, as the products are researched and designed. This only can truly bring out the potential of technology. If we miss that step, it’s going to be too late. We’ve learnt enough from the past not to make these mistakes again.

GS: How would you make it work?

YN: At a global level, we first need to involve civil society, organizations and coalitions in an efficient system of governance. Then, governments need to play their part. If technology is brought to a country, there are certain rules and standards that should be met. Local people must get involved in the process, and not only at the end when technology reaches health but from the start so that it benefits and empowers them. You need proper ownership of technology. Without ownership, technology can be beautiful and cute, but really obsolete in the end. If governments commit to this, the private sector will have to follow.

I might be stating the obvious but engaging young people is also definitely important.

We are the ones who not only grew up with technology, but we are basically the ones who made it happen the way it happened. Social media, apps you name it. There is so much potential in us being the bridge between the technology itself, understanding it, and our communities and their needs. We can make it happen.

GS: Do you feel you are being heard?

YN: We talk about this a lot. It is a frustration you hear from many of my colleagues. Who has the power? Sometimes we’re dismissed quickly or sometimes we’re afraid to speak up, because of what we’ve been taught our place in this world is.

The great thing is that we have technology. We’ve created platforms to be heard. Thus, we are moving away from the traditional communication paths. You can have a YouTube channel and be heard by millions. I’m hoping that people will catch up on that. The change is happening but it is happening slowly. The question is: do you include young people because you really mean it or because you want to look good?

But I’m one of the believers. The important thing is to get to the table. When you’re at the table, you’re at the table. Now, you need to decide what you’re going to do with it. That is why it is also important to teach younger people to speak up. And make sure that when you’re at that place, you keep it and make it impactful.

GS: And what will you bring to the table?

YN: Our vision differs from other generations’ for one simple reason: experience. The way we see the world is completely different. The way we interact with people shapes our view of the world. And technology has a lot to do with it. This interconnectedness that we have makes us so much more aware of what’s happening in the world. We are so conscious of equity, social justice and discrimination. It is so powerful. If we are allowed into this debate, we will create so much more than our voices. We can bring the future and we can give you what the future will look like.