Since IICD’s early days, IICD has seen youth as one of the focal points of our work. From our first projects in 1998, we observed that young people are curious, open, and naturally drawn to ICT. This makes them valuable participants in societal change processes triggered by ICT and in our work. Since then, our work with youth has spanned across the education, health, agriculture and economic development sectors as a response to the many challenges faced by this rapidly growing population group.
In the health sector, one example of our work is the use of ICTs to inform youth about their Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) in an objective and appealing way, and to guide them to youth-friendly centres for more in-depth knowledge and needed services. In collaboration with partners in the telecoms and private sectors, IICD launched a mobile-based information system for youth in Ghana and an online SRHR platform in Kenya. In Ghana, youth could use SMS or IVR (interactive voice response) to acquire information anonymously and to subscribe to regular updates around the topics of sexuality, teenage health, and general topics of interest around growing up and making conscious life decisions. In Kenya, youth were able to access an online (and mobile-friendly) website with interactive content, support forums, maps to find youth-friendly clinics, and more.
In the Agriculture sector, youths have been fundamental actors in building networks of young farmers to improve the positioning and marketing of their communities’ produce. In Peru for example, IICD and its partners have been able to reposition agro-ecological farming towards Perú’s high-end gourmet food industry, increase sales of produce, and heighten the sense of self-worth of rural communities involved with ecologically sound agricultural practices. Engaging their youth members as ambassadors of ecological farming and supporting them to use a diversity of tools, including social media such as facebook, but also podcasts for radio broadcasts, and video production and dissemination using youtube, was a key factor contributing to their success.
Experiences across the range of IICD’s programmes on agriculture and value chain development in Africa and Latin America showed a substantive trend of youngsters displaying an increased interest in farming. This caused partially by the creation of stronger farmer organisations with an amplified focus on the market and value chain development. ICTs were found to significantly contribute to this interest as the various ICT solutions employed allowed youths to access to markets more easily and use appropriate information to boost production. Youth’s ability to easily grasp the ICT applications, acquire information, and realise new market opportunities has caused youths to increasingly see farming as a profitable business.
ICT investments in youth-centred economic activities – such as youth entrepreneurship, job creation, and employability – play a similarly critical role in realising socio-economic changes in youth’s livelihoods, and have been a logical consequence of the rapid introduction of ICTs on the African and Latin American continents. A number of IICD projects and programmes specifically explored and demonstrated this relationship between ICTs and youth’s emergence as key economic and social actors. Whether used to attract young people into employment-related programmes such as TVETs, or to support training school dropouts and youth at-risk in informal trades skills, young people feel enticed to learn market-relevant ICT skills and see ICTs as a pathway for them to build a career and income generating opportunities.