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Are cellphone apps and Facebook the key to empowering African youth?

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Last week’s Tech Salon, hosted by ICT Works and the UN Foundation Technology Partnership, was on the topic "Can youth find economic empowerment via apps, m-payments and social media?"

Fiona Macaulay from Making Cents and I gave some of the opening remarks to get the conversation started (and Wayan Vota kept things lively as usual).

The premise of the salon was that "today’s youth population is the largest in the history of the world, and 90 percent of these young people live in developing countries. The global youth unemployment rate is the highest on record, and we’re seeing discontent and disenfranchisement play out on the news each day. In fact, the revolution in Tunisia started with an under-employed youth committing self-immolation in frustration. … Technology-based models hold great promise for increasing and improving economic opportunities for young people: low barriers to entry for youth-built apps, the widespread use of Facebook and its promise as a marketing platform, the ubiquity and ease of m-Payment systems like MPESA – these should be a recipe for youth economic empowerment.

During the salon we explored three key questions:

  1. How are youth starting businesses or getting jobs in growth-oriented ICT sectors around the world?
  2. How are organizations and programs utilizing technology to reach and engage young people?
  3. Where should we be cautious or enthusiastic with technology with respect to youth economic empowerment?
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