Karen De Sousa Pesse: Spreading Awareness Among Young Changemakers in Belgrade

During YTIM's latest event, Gresë Sermaxhaj sat down with Microsoft's Karen De Sousa Pesse about how she is using her voice for change.

Karen De Sousa Pesse, a tech enthusiast, and diversity & inclusion advocate currently working as a Digital Advisor at Microsoft, joined as a speaker on our Media Information and Literacy Event in Belgrade

During the event, she spoke about fake news, misinformation and disinformation, by acknowledging that it is necessary to be critical of the information consumed and not always trust what we see and hear.

Today, more than two weeks after the event, she sits to reflect on this event. 

In this piece, she elaborates why she sees the participants as the changemakers of their communities, and how we can use technological advancements for a greater good.

Read on for her perspective on the wonderful event which brought together around 50 participants, who for six days shared not only the classroom but also their ideas, their joys and their dreams for a promising future. 


Together is Better 

Although she has a great expertise, De Sousa Pesse understands that the fight against fake news, misinformation and disinformation is not a one-person job at all

“I am happy that I could go there, spread awareness about it, hoping that my message will resonate – and I have the feeling it did – because from what I have seen, the group [the young people] was filled with changemakers, energetic people with ambition to do good.

“There was also a lot of thirst for knowledge,” she says while adding that she enjoyed discussing a topic she is passionate about with other people that equally love it.

“Do I see them [the participants] changing their communities?”, she asks and goes on:

“On a more serious note, I do – and I offered my help in case they needed it. This is not my first Youth Time event, and I still follow many participants that I met in the past, so I know their potential. I hope nobody will ever make them doubt that.”


Artificial Intelligence as a Great Tool for Positive Changes 

One of the most engaging topics discussed together was Artificial Intelligence (AI), and its implications in media and social media.

De Sousa Pesse believes that technology and digitalisation have the power to improve people’s lives in many forms, and she has been reflecting on this during her lecture and panel discussions. 

She elaborates on a panel discussion she discussed this point of view. 

“The theme of the panel was very much centred around the dangers of AI, so it is natural that we somehow go on a darker path. I think the speakers would not be so concerned if they would not care deeply about it: we all really want AI to succeed, but for that we need to make it ‘bulletproof’.”

In a cheerful tone, she recalls, the only thing she did was reminding the audience that – although a lot of negative sides were being highlighted – AI is a great tool for good. 

On this matter, trust in people is so important, she underlines.

“We cannot afford to lose it, and that is why we are so critical about it. The lack of diversity in the community is a big issue, but this has been brought to light and it is now changing, with more and more tech companies focusing on diverse hiring.”

If we look at the future, De Sousa Pesse says, AI will thrive, leading important initiatives in terms of sustainability, managing environmental impact and climate change, helping to advance green transportation networks, and the list goes on. 

“In fact, every industry today has the possibility to get advanced by AI.”

“Drawing the line, in my opinion, will be a combination of common sense among the parties creating it, governments regulating it, people using it – technology is neutral, and is up to humans to decide how to use it.”


Be Curious and Thrive 

De Sousa Pesse has a message for all the young people. 

“Someone once told me that if you want to change the status quo, get fired before you quit. This does not apply only for jobs though: if there is something you disagree with, try to change it before you give up.”

Be curious, question, try to understand, she concludes. 


About De Sousa Pesse

Karen graduated in Nanotechnology Engineering, with a Masters in Sustainable Materials Engineering from Belgium’s Ghent University, and has been working in tech companies ever since. During her career, she has received around 20 honours and awards, and from her drive to help people through technology, a social entrepreneurship project called DiversiBe was born.        

Youth Time International Movement (YTIM) brought this event in cooperation with Erasmus+ Youth Worker Exchange.

Still time to apply for this year’s Idea Grant Competition – read all about it now:

Youth Time International Launches 2021 Idea Grant Competition

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