Category Archives: youth

How do young adults access websites?

I am currently at the fifth IGF in Vilnius and yesterday I presented some data from our study on the online routines of the digital natives at the GigaNet.  Here, i would like to share one observation that I find particularly interesting.  In the graph below you can see a summary of our coding of how our participants reached website during our observation sessions. It reflects coding of over 650 instance of accessing website in each China and the USArrivingAtAWebsite-Summary.

As we can see, in most cases, our participants searched; this is consistent across both groups and I think was not particularly surprising.  Similarly, the use of bookmarks was equally consistent across both groups, which in my view was more surprising (perhaps since I am not a big bookmark user).

The differences, as you can see, were in the use of autocomplete and reliance on links.  Interestingly, in the Chinese sample, there were significantly more instances of using reliance on links compared to the use of autocomplete.  In the US sample what we see is practically a mirror image of this trend – significantly larger proportion of instances involved the use of autocomplete.

What makes it even more interesting is a glimpse at where do the Chinese participants follow the links from.  We are still organizing that data, but my initial observation is that many of those are coming from websites that basically large repositories of links (for example take a look at or

All this brings up some thoughts about the role of English in the online experience.  In my view, one plausable explanation of this data can be the knowledge of English language.  I can see how use of the autocomplete function comes more “naturally” to the native speakers, compared to those for whom English is a second language.  The large collections of links that were utilized by our Chinese participants, further support this idea – why would you make an effort of typing in an inconvenient language, when you can go to just one website, where all the links you use are?

There are currently more questions than statements suggested by the snippet above – there is still a lot of work to be done on these data.  Having said that, I’d love to hear your thought about this little observation.  Please share…

You can find the slides from the presentation here.

Seeking your opinions on internet values and core principles

The next Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is just around the corner and for the first time I am organizing a workshop there.  I think the title of the workshop speaks for itself.  It is: “Core Internet Values and the Principles of Internet Governance Across Generations.”

The idea is very simple.  We are going to have a group of very smart people.  Some of them are internet pioneers from different countries, some of them are established researchers, and some are well known practitioners.  We will also have a group of young, less known (yet) people, whose activism and professional lives are related to the internet in one way or another.  The panel itself is quite large and we are also counting on having a very diverse and engaging audience from the IGF community.

So, the plan is to have a discussion among the panelists and then involve the floor, about core internet values and principles.  The question is not only what those values and principles might be, but whether the perception of these values and principles varies across generations and what that may mean for the future of internet-related policies.

This is where I would really appreciate an input from anyone reading these lines.  What do you think are the core values and principles of the internet where we can find the widest gaps across generations?

One example may be the notion of privacy.  I think since online social networks became popular there is an ongoing debate about how the younger generations’ perceptions of privacy online differ from that of their parents.  We all heard Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement that the age of privacy is over.  But is it so for everyone?

What are the core values and principles of the internet that you still hold dear?  Which ones do you think were important in the past, but are no longer important?

Please share your thoughts!

OLPC – the Israeli pilot

More or less a year ago I had the pleasure of meeting Guy Sheffer, who represented Israel at the ITU Youth Forum in Bangkok.  Guy is a true open source enthusiast and has tremendous amounts of energy, which are rather inspiring.  He got really excited and interested in the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC ) project and when he went back home, he was determined to have an OLPC pilot in Israel.  He got together with Netzach Farbish , who heads the Astronomy, Computers and Young Leadership Programs at the Ilan Ramon Center, and when I was in Israel last winter I helped them to meet with Ushi Krausz of the Peres Center for Peace.  It turned out that the center had a stock of older XO’s that they didn’t use and were willing to contribute to the pilot.

In the video below you can see an interview with Guy and Netzah where they talk about the pilot:


I understand that Guy is still working on reflections on the pilot and its results, which he will publish in his blog.  I have some thoughts of my own, but I will hold them untill he has his say :)

Intel is doing it smart

At the last WTPF meeting I learned about the Magellan laptop project of the Portuguese government.  Every participant was provided with such a laptop for the duration of the forum, at the end of which the laptops were supposed to be donated “to children in a developing country.”  I am not sure where exactly they went, but many of the participants got to keep their laptops and were provided with a lot of information about the project.

The Magellan laptop

The Magellan initiative, named after the 16th century explorer, is a collaboration between Intel and the Portuguese government.  According to Mr. Mario Lino, Minister of Public Works, Transport and Communications, it is part of the government’s commitment to development of the “information society” in Portugal.  The aim is to deliver those laptops to 1.1 million students registered in their e-school program and supposedly 800K have been already deployed.  Moreover, the initiative is looking to expand beyond the Portuguese borders.  A number of times during the forums it was mentioned that a really large shipment of Magellan laptops (if I remember correctly about 200K) went to Columbia and shipments to other corners of the world are on their way.

The project representatives I talked to at the forum were not ready to say how much it would cost if someone wanted to by a batch of these machines.  They sold them on spot for 250 Euro a piece, but told me that the price will be negotiated per project depending on the quantities and the educational needs of the client.  From my neighbor on the flights back to the US, whose kid participates in the program, I learned that in Portugal those laptops are distributed for 50 Euro maximum (if the family is not eligible for any additional subsidies).  If the family falls in certain category, it would get not only the laptop for free, but also an internet connection as long as there are children aged 8-10 in the household and their participate in the program.

Indeed, the program is very well known in Portugal.  I was lucky enough to receive one of those laptops and carrying it around and taking it on the plane attracted both attention and comments of the locals who were really proud about their local laptop traveling to the US.

Digging into it, Magellan laptop is the Classmate PC in a different cover.  I think Intel have handled it really smart with this project.  They gave the Portuguese government the ability to repackage their Classmate PC so that it could be presented to the world as a Portuguese laptop and the Portuguese government could take the credit.  In other words, the Portuguese government rips political dividend while helping Intel disseminating their technology.  Sort of a win-win situation.

The laptops are indeed assembled in Portugal (from parts made in China), which makes it the first European laptop.  My version came with Windows XP in English, but from my neighbor on the flights back I learned that machines distributed in Portugal come with dual boot of XP and Ubuntu.  Moreover, they come with an educational software, which according to my neighbor was rather buggy and not very useful.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the software.

The size, the design, and most importantly the purpose of the laptop (and the entire program), raised an immediate comparison to OLPC and XO, but on that (and more on the specs of the laptop) in a latter post.  In the meantime, here are few more pictures of the machine with some comments.

Just to give you a sense of its size compared to a standard business card; also note the handle to carry it around

Just to give you a sense of its size compared to a standard business card; also note the handle to carry it around

An open laptop: the keybord is pretty small (designed for kids) and my version has Portuguese layout; the touch pad is nice, but I couldn't figure out how to turn off the tapping functionality; note a built-in webcam above the screen

An open laptop: the keybord is pretty small (designed for kids) and my version has Portuguese layout; the touch pad is nice, but I couldn't figure out how to turn off the tapping functionality; note a built-in webcam above the screen

Right side: USB port, SD card reader, LAN, and power

Right side: USB port, SD card reader, LAN, and power

Left side: Another USB port, headphones and microphone jacks

Left side: Another USB port, headphones and microphone jacks

The bottom view of the laptop

The bottom view of the laptop

Another bottom view, this time with the battery out

Another bottom view, this time with the battery out

Cornell OLPC goes to Mauritania

I have so much to write about, including updates from my experience at WTPF, but literally no time.  Between writing the A-exams, grading, writing the A-exams, traveling, and writing the A-exams, blogging moved to the second stage.  But this is really exciting news and I will make it brief.

So here is the update: a group of Cornell undergraduate students won a grant from the OLPCorps scheme and in a few weeks they are going to Tidjikja, Mauritania, to distribute 100 XO laptops to children and tutor them for about two months.  I am trying to help these guys with some advise, but they are doing great in spite of that :)

If you are interested, you can take a look at a wiki with the details of their proposal (PDF) and you can follow a blog they have recently started.  As I said, they received 100 XO laptops, USD 10,000 for expenses, and a week long training in Rwanda.  So, just two members of the team are actually going to Mauritania, but nevertheless they are still about USD 1,000 short.  If you happen to have an idea where they can apply for money on such a short notice, please share.  If you wish to contribute yourself (not necessarily the entire sum), you can do that as well (thank you in advance!).

I am really excited for the guys and I am sure this is going to an interesting experience from which we all will learn a lot.

ITU: The future of ICTs video contest – deadline March 31

In the video below a really nice, but nameless, girl is advertising the current ITU video contest titled “The future of ICTs” using some really “fancy” video effects.

Leaving aside the particularities of the video, the competition itself looks like a good opportunity for those of you who are interested in getting their ideas heard and perhaps even make it to the upcoming World Telecommunication Policy Forum in Lisbon in April.

In a nutshell, you have to have something visionary to say about the future of media, information, and communication technology, you have to be between the ages of 18 and 26, you should speak in English, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, French or Russian, and you need to know how to shoot and upload videos to YouTube.

The deadline for your submissions is March 31.


Currently there is only one video response published on YouTube, so I guess there is still room to compete.  Here is the link again (you should read the conditions carefuly) and good luck!

OLPCorps Africa – March 27 deadline

Although it received quite a lot of (somewhat just) criticism on OLPC news (here and here with the second post trying to make sense of the first one), I think this is quite an interesting move on behalf of OLPC.  I think there is a lot of the youth potential, which the author of the blog post is overlooking and I would like to share this opportunity with those of you who are interested in OLPC-related activities.  For example, I think it may particularly interest those of you who were at the last ITU YF in Bangkok and had an opportunity to be thoroughly introduced to the XO laptops.

Here is the gist of the initiative:


OLPCorps Africa is a unique grant program focused specifically on learning in Africa. Student teams are equipped with the tools, resources, and know-how to develop grassroots learning environments in an African country of their choice. OLPC is drawing upon the world’s student leaders to spark a university-led grassroots initiative in this global learning movement. Through OLPCorps Africa, OLPC is creating a global network of student leaders who will create a lasting impact at the local level, build a network of student activists, and initiate a grant program that will become renown.  (source)

Eligibility? – Undergraduate and graduate students, over 18 years old, from any country.


$3,500,000 for 100 teams of college students to get $35,000 in support for 10 week projects in Africa. Each group gets 100 XO laptops, assorted hardware, a $10,000 stipend, and 10-day training in Kigali, Rwanda, before being sent out to projects. (source)


The workshop will begin June 8th and end June 17th. Teams should arrive at least 1 day before. However, teams are encouraged to arrive as early as the 6th in order to adjust to the time-difference and leave room for flight-delays or any other unexpected circumstances which may arise. (source)

The duration of the Grant Program is 10 weeks (June – August), including the orientation in Kigali. Teams should arrange with their local partner to stay for at least 9 weeks. (source)

Proposals deadline is March 27th.

Please consult the wiki of the project for further details.  Note that there are many people there who are looking for local partners to form a proposal team.  So, if you are in Africa, you may find good partners there.

I was also excited to see that there is a group of Cornell students who have applied for this opportunity.  I hope to get in touch with them and offer them my help.  If any of you is applying, I would be also glad to hear about that!  Please let me know if I can help, particularly with linking people who are looking for partners.

Good luck everyone!

Help me realize a dream!

For the first time in my life I am entering this kind of competition and I am really excited about it!

Microsoft and Lenovo have launched “Name Your Dream Assignment” competition.  They are going to give $50K to one of the top 20 photography projects that will win the popular vote on their website.

I just submitted mine and you can find it here (there is also a badge on the main page that is linked to my project).  Since there are space limitations for project descriptions, I also created a page here, on ThinkMacro, that has more details.  Please feel free to explore.

If you are reading this, I would really appreciate if you take a few minutes and vote for my project!

Please PIC IT!

Learning from students

One of the good things of being a teaching assistant (TA) is that I am getting exposed to a great variety of views and opinions of the students I am working with.  It is somewhat scary to think that many of these students are ten years younger than me, but it is often fascinating to learn how they are using MICT and what they are thinking about technology.

So I decided to share a couple of insights I have learned from (and about) my students.

Insight #1: Last semester I TAed for an intro communication class.  At some point (somewhere in late October) we were talking about the upcoming election and the use of MICT in election campaigns.  Specifically, the students were presented with a way of assessing political websites in terms of interactivity, hypertextuality, and social presence.  At the end of the class the 102 students were polled about what aspect of the website would be most important to them.  Thanks Laura and Sue, who agreed to actually count all the votes, I am able to share them with you:

  • Interactivity – 35.3%
  • Hypertextuality – 34.3%
  • Social presence – 27.5%
  • Combination of a number of aspects – 2.9%

If I recall the discussion in class correctly, this means that (1) the students appreciated an ability to “talk” to the candidates, express their opinions, and get involved in discussion, and (2) they appreciated an option to learn more and in depth about the subjects presented on campaign websites.  Needless to say that this is not by any means a rigorous or comprehensive study and we cannot really learn anything substantive from it, but nevertheless I think it is an interesting indicator.

Insight #2: The class I am TAing for this semester has a blog where the students have to post weekly assignments.  In the last assignment they had to observe their own usage of their mobile phones for a couple of days and then discuss issues that bothered them the most.  I have no numbers to provide this time, but here is what I learned from reading their reflections:

  • They are connected! Not that this needed any proof from me reading the blog posts (PDF), but it is really amazing to read about the central role this device is playing in their social life.
  • They are very responsive. One of the most common complains was about phone calls and text messages interrupting their studies, their sleep or their class sessions.  On the face of it, what can be easier than simply turning your phone off, but it turns out that missing phone calls or taking too long to response to text messages is not very socially acceptable.
  • They want control.  As one of the common solutions, many students offered to have an equivalent of tagging so that they could catalog people in order prioritize phone calls and text messages as they arrive (note that this is different from assigning different ring tone to individual contacts).  Another popular feature they have advocated for was an ability to link their calendars to their mobile phones, so that the phones would ring, vibrate, or turn off according to their schedules.
  • They don’t like uncertainty. Another commonly suggested feature was status notifications.  On the one hand, they want to let people know why they are not responsive or signal to people when it is appropriate to contact them.  On the other hand, they want to know why somebody is not answering their calls or text messages.
  • Mobiles are social. Anther common complain was that the phone rings in inappropriate times (class, library, etc.).  It turns out that people really care about this and it is considered very embarrassing even to the digital natives.

Again, none of those observations is subject to any rigour, but I found reading these blog posts really interesting and insightful.  Hope you will find those interesting too and I wonder if any of the mobile industry players is actually working on developing some of the features the students have advocated for.

What do Israeli students do online?

Apparently February 17 is the national internet safety day in Israel.  Honoring this occasion, the Ministry of Education published results of a survey among school-age students about their use of the internet (HE). They surveyed 16,702 students from 234 schools, covering grades 5, 8, and 11.

Here are some highlights:

  • 95% of the students have access to computer with an internet connection.
  • Most parents don’t really care what their kids are doing online or how much they spend there.  For example, 67% of the parents do not limit the time their kids can spend online, 53% do not express any interest about what they are doing there, and only 22% are using filtering software.
  • Most of the students are rather pragmatic in their use of the internet.  81% of the students are looking for any information online (not surprising, but interesting number), 77% are playing online games, 68% utilize the web for their studies, 66% use it to communicate with their peers, and 63% download music.
  • It also looks most of the students are rather thoughtful in their use of the internet. 72% explicitly stated that they are aware of the dangers of the internet and “consult or check” before giving away identifiable information (71% are using a screen name) and 14% of the students admitted that they are exposed to adult content.
  • Online ethics and copyright awareness are not as strong.  30% of the students are convinced that they can download anything they want from the internet and similar proportion of the students are convinced that they can download papers from the internet for class submission (this one is rather worrying result in my eyes).
  • Some results are not as clear.  For example, 40% of the students are convinces that internet is a free place where you can copy or use anything you want. I am not sure what exactly the Ministry people were trying to achieve in this question and how we should read it, but they presented it as a negative phenomenon.

As I said, the report is released in the context of “internet safety day.” As such, it is framed so that we would appreciate the dangers children are exposed to online.  This is particularly evident in the emphasis on the fact that parents do not care much about what their kids are doing online and an explicit attempt to emphasize that significant percentage are exposed to adult content, as well as to suggest that the kids are not careful enough in online interactions.

However, I think the results actually show that the Israeli youth are very thoughtful users of the Internet.  I have no tools to judge how many teenagers are exposed to adult content in the offline world, but 14% does not seem like a frightening figure (of course it is self reported, so the actual figure is probably higher).  At the same time, the main uses of the medium are mostly positive and most of the youths are careful about how they behave online and how they expose themselves to strangers.

The Ministry of Education is taking credit for the positive trends (even though longitudinal data would help) and probably rightfully so .  I think it is an important argument in the discussions about internet filtering under the claim of protecting the kids.  First, we can see that the situation is not as horrible as some proponents of filtering suggest (unless, of course, looking for information online is considered negative/dangerous behavior in some communities).  Second, if the Ministry of Education is right that the current situation is a result of educational efforts, it shows that resources spent in that direction do bear fruit.

Having said that, it is important to note that my entire discussion is based on a press release from the ministry. In other words, all the data above was selected and framed by the ministry to serve a purpose.  It would be of course much more useful if the ministry would publish the detailed report, including the instruments they’ve used and the responses they’ve got.  For example, it would be really interesting to see age difference in the attitudes and uses of the internet.  It would be also interesting to see how different socioeconomic groups interact with the medium.  Finally, as I have mentioned above, presenting longitudinal data (if it exists) would be very helpful. Do you think it is too much to ask for a complete report?  Or perhaps it is available somewhere out there and you could point me to it?