Young people are often ‘first adopters’ of new technologies, particularly broadcast technologies such as mobile phones. The upsurge in ICT usage has had a direct impact on increasing civic engagement among youth, providing new avenues through which they are informed, shape opinions, organise, collaborate and take action.
A number of barriers and challenges remain that must be tackled to ensure that mobile phones and social media can fulfil their potential as catalytic tools for improving development outcomes for young people. These include:
- Access, equity and the socio-political factors which dictate availability and affordability of ICTs
- Gender and the specific challenges for girls in accessing and utilising ICTs
- The role of intermediaries, assessing who controls access to and use of ICTs
- The importance of contextualised, user-centred approaches to design of mobile phone or social media interventions.
Despite widespread support for the use of mobile phone technology and promising early findings
from various projects, there has been little comprehensive research or rigorous evaluation of the causal influence of mobile phones and social media on youth development outcomes. Few evaluations
of youth programmes in developing countries unambiguously identify the causality from policy to
programme to effect. Many (youth) programmes fall into the category of promising but unproven.