Panel participants at Expo 2020 Dubai


From Young People Programme to Expo 2020 Dubai: Breaking communication boundaries through technology

Hassan Raja
Hassan Raja

Canon Young People Programme participant

Digital technology has given younger generations in particular a voice – providing a platform for them to share their thoughts, opinions and creativity. But in a world where society has traditionally been driven by the older generations and analogue conversations, how do you bridge the technology divide to ensure effective communication and deliver bold solutions to the world’s issues?

This was the crux of a discussion I took part of at this year’s Expo 2020 Dubai, which brings 192 countries together to create, collaborate and innovate. I had the privilege of speaking on the World Majlis panel session ‘Bridging the Divide: Bringing Bold Changes with Wisdom’ with young speakers from a range of backgrounds in the UAE as part of Tolerance and Inclusivity Week. Together we discussed how we can foster greater collaboration and the sharing of ideas across different generations and cultures in a world that’s being disrupted by technology.

Participants of the Bridging the Divide: Bringing bold Changes with Wisdom panel
Bridging the Divide: Bringing bold Changes with Wisdom panel

Expo 2020 Dubai is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. Walking around the space, filled with 192 differently themed pavilions was a unique experience in terms of the scale of the event and the feeling of people coming together to experience the goal of ‘Connecting Minds and Creating the Future’ through sustainability, mobility and opportunity’.

This was also my first time speaking to such a large audience and although it was nerve wracking, I realised the other participants who joined me on the stage were just like me – aged 11-21 and all excited to bring to the table a range of thought-provoking issues and viewpoints on how we should bridge the divide between generations through technology.

I was invited to attend Expo 2020 Dubai and join the panel by Canon’s Young People Programme (YPP) – an initiative that empowers the next generation with the skills and technology to communicate through visual storytelling. I’ve been a member of the YPP since 2015 after learning about the programme while taking part in a creative media camp with the Ideas Foundation in the UK. Learning about creative storytelling has been instrumental in my journey as a photographer, pursuing a creative career and securing my place on the panel in Dubai, of course.

Holding a DSLR in my hand has opened the gateway for my creative future. Through this journey I have met some really inspiring young people, as well as invaluable mentors, and for myself and many others who’ve taken part in the Young People Programme, it’s been a turning point in our careers and personal lives too. The learnings and experiences I’ve had through the programme have been skills I’ve used in my degree at Cambridge University and into my career in marketing.

Blog author Hassan Raja stood outside of Expo 2020 Dubai
Hassan Raja outside of Expo 2020 Dubai. Credit: Hassan Raja

During the discussion, we spoke about bridging intergenerational divides and it was clear that we all agreed dialogue and learning plays a key part in change making and that technology also has a central role to play in this. Although we did touch on reasons to question the benefits of technology outweighing the negatives, I truly believe that it has benefitted us by bringing so much accessibility to our lives – even running the discussion in the format we did would have been difficult without using smartphones, projectors and virtual dial-ins.

I think bringing people together through technology is integral to how we’re going to solve the world’s issues. We definitely need more education in digital skills for our younger generation, so that we can flip the lid on traditional mentoring and instead support the older generation to use technology in beneficial ways. If you think about it, we can all relate to helping an older member of our family out with technology, and it’s this type of knowledge that we must impart in our professional and personal lives in order to move towards achieving common goals.

Image of a training presentation about Canon’s Young People Programme


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