How the Young ICT Leaders’ Forum can foster digital transformation

How the Young ICT Leaders’ Forum can foster digital transformation

By Mohamed Ba, Head of the Innovation Division for ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau

In the past few years, the Young ICT Leaders’ Forum (YILF), an annual event co-organized by ITU and the city of Busan, Republic of Korea, has attracted a diverse talented pool of young people. The 6th edition of the Young ICT Leader’s forum will take place in Busan in the Republic of Korea from 3 to 6 September 2019.

The YILF is not a regular competition for young innovators but it is a unique event that offers a space where youth change-makers in information and communication technologies (ICTs) can network, connect and enhance their innovative ideas to transform their communities into smart communities.

Previous winners of YILF awards went on to improve their solutions and use the recognition received to gain access to more resources to turn their ideas into reality.

We received many applications from innovators around the world, all working towards making their cities smarter. From innovators proposing education solutions using Augmented Reality (AR) technologies to those with tsunami early warning solutions using Internet of Things (IoT) technologies: everyone shared the same vision –  to make their cities smarter.

There are many competitions and youth events out there. What is quite unique with YILF is the policy and enabling environment dimension that ITU, as the lead United Nations agency for ICTs, can offer through its network of public and private sector decision makers and experts. In addition, the commitment to empowering the global ICT community, demonstrated by the Metropolitan City of Busan as a global Smart City leader, makes it the perfect partner to host the Young ICT Leaders Forum.

Learning, unlearning, and relearning: keys to innovation

Building a culture of innovation can sometimes be considered a numbers game. This means that some great new ideas may fail and some may succeed.

One of my tasks is about building the ecosystems needed to create sustainable enabling environments for ICT innovation. I refer to this as “putting sustainable back” in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to address the opportunities of digital transformation. It is a passionate personal appeal to those working with SDGs to think about sustainability carefully.

During last year’s event, it became obvious that ecosystem building was already happening in some regions of the world thanks to the contribution by YILF participants.

How YILF graduates transformed 

Nelson Milla, a 2016 YILF participant from Honduras, is a great example of someone who has taken lessons from YILF back home. He saw the potential of YILF and the opportunities it offered to navigate a challenging environment in his home community.

Victoria Masso, a 2018 participant, was already active as a mentor and entrepreneur in her community in Birmingham, but now has also become a great ecosystem builder. After the first day of the event, I was lamenting how difficult it was to tell stories (with my engineering background) and shared my quest for a story-telling tool for the workshop. She sprang into action, and in less than 24 hours, she was leading a session on story-telling during the second day.

We have improved this story-telling tool since and it has become one of the hottest tools within our toolbox that change-makers worldwide are falling in love with.

Connected, networking, building capabilities

Throughout YILF 2018, participants were actively engaged in collaboration, networking, capacity building, and co-creation. The first two days were dedicated to a boot camp workshop on ecosystem building, while the 3rd day was dedicated to the Forum. The last day was reserved to a study tour of the Busan smart ecosystem.

All participants felt energized by the experience. One participant said: “I have been inspired by two considerable situations. The first is the method of learning by doing. The second aspect is thinking outside the box, going further than what I have been taught.”

“This collective experience will prepare us for the future,” said another participant.

For the 2019 YILF edition, we will experiment with new tools to help innovators scale their solutions. We hope you will take the opportunity to lead and invite others to join us in this learning journey, in our reinvigorated community.

As Mahatma Gandhi said: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

Please join us in making the 6th Edition of the Young ICT Leaders’ Forum a success. Take  ITU innovation challenges to be part of a great community. Help us spread the word.

Learn more ITU innovation program by visiting us at; or send us an email at  

Mohamed BaMr Ba is the Head of the Innovation Division for ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau. His role is to help strengthen ITU Members’ capacity to accelerate digital transformation.

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