Young Jordanians contribute to designing an online game on local governance
In an effort to engage young people in local governance, The United Nations Development Programme and the Higher Council for Youth teamed up with Princess Sumaya University for Technology, to develop an online game on local governance.
- 72% of internet users 5 years old and above use the internet for reading online newspapers and magazines, 86% for electronic games, 25% for training purposes, and 24% use it to seek information from government
- The two main social media platforms used in Jordan are Facebook, social networking space, and Twitter, micro-blogging website
- 12% of households in rural areas have internet subscription
- The highest age group using the internet is 15-24 year; who constitute 46% of users, 45% of whom are females.
- As of November 2011, there are over 1,8 million Facebook users in Jordan, 58% of whom are males and 42% females with 77% of these users between 15-29 years. There are also 16,886 active Twitter users
The aim of this game is to increase awareness among young people about local governance and political participation at the local level.
“These days, young people are more interested in innovative methods and technology; this is why the project identifies ‘gamification’, new media.”, Basma Nabulsi said, UNDP Project Manager.
With popular discontent over youth marginalization, and with the advent of social media, youth are equating their identity with their online presence. The number of Internet users in Jordan reached over three million by the end of 2010, which presents a strong argument for governance projects to be online.
Broad economic and political demands became the subject of Facebook statuses, blog posts and tweets. Despite the importance of local governance to the livelihood of everyday life however, young men and women didn’t give it enough attention in their online debates.
The team organized a Youth Innovation Camp to generate ideas for the game storyboard. Forty four young men and women, from different governorates and backgrounds spent four days in the hypothetical municipalities of Adala (Justice) and Horeya (Freedom), as they campaigned and competed in mock municipal elections.
This game is part of UNDP’s “Youth Participation in Local Governance project, in partnership with the Higher Council for Youth, which aims at increasing youth political participation and civic engagement in local governance using an online portal and game on local governance, with the budget of USD150,000.
To encourage equal participation based on gender, political ideologies and demographics, some participants were selected through an application process, while some political parties and university student councils nominated each a representative.
Nadine Halaseh, an animation university student, was taking notes for the storyboard. She developed interest in campaigning and municipal development strategies after joining the camp. As a result, she joined the youth candidates running for ‘office’.
“As an animation student, I never thought I would be interested in politics, but I realized that participation is a right and I have to practice it.”, she said.
The Youth Innovation Camp gave young Jordanians the opportunity to scrutinize the work of the municipalities; they enjoyed highlighting problems like poor sanitation and deteriorating infrastructure, but were astonished to see how complex development planning can be at the local level.
Budgeting for their hypothetical development plans fell short; the young participants finally understood what prioritizing means. They are now aware of their civic rights to access local governance information and to attend municipality meetings.
As municipal elections are coming up this fall, Nadine, with her built-in charisma is equipped with the necessary information, and determination to transform her political participation experience from the hypothetical to real life. Who knows? She might actually win again!
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