The Internet is a vast universe of opportunity with a potential clientele spread throughout the world
Two facts converge when it comes to the youth and ICT. Any current generation is more techsavvy than the previous one. Current developments in ICT are more advanced than previous ones. The socio-economic realities of Kenya place the youth and ICT in a special perspective.
The youth make up 35 per cent of Kenya’s estimated population of 45 million people. The youth are the people aged between 18 and 35 years. Combined with people below 18 years of age, we have a gigantic 78 per cent of the population either as youth or maturing into adulthood. At an estimated youth unemployment rate of 55 per cent, this category of the people in the population live in stormy waters. This explains the youth dependency ratio of 76. The dependency ratio represents the number of people below 14 years and above 65 years to the population aged between 15 years and 64 years. This means that, at a youth dependency ratio of 76, the youth exert mammoth pressure on the working-class population.
High dependency ratios are a cause for concern because at the lower ages it means low incomes and slim opportunities for actualization of personal and community dreams through quality education and meaningful engagement in the society. This leads to an increased potential for crime and social evils. At the older ages, it means governments have to make higher investments in social security and pension for an aging population, declining labour force and lower fertility.
High dependency ratios result in stunted economic growth as the socio-economic engine is denied of air and fuel in the medium term and becomes grounded in the long run. No entity – be it a village, constituency, county or nation – would dare ignore a high population of the youth, in the context of a huge child population and the challenges of high dependency.
ICT, or information and communication technology, is the set of technologies that facilitate communication, harvesting and storage of data, processing and presenting information in speeds and volumes never envisaged in ages past. It is the foundation of the information revolution, information age or the digital age. Before the information revolution, there were the agricultural and industrial revolutions which, in their wake, transformed agricultural practices and productivity in addition to ushering widespread mechanisation.
Two things come into the fore when youth and ICT are mentioned. In 2017, the youth population represents the people born between 1982 and 1999. These are people born in the age of the Internet, email and office applications such as word processing, books and accounts processing, presentation packaging and databases.
They did not find the carpet-size payroll sheets of their parents. They did not need to master fancy handwritings, but rather typing keyboards. They did not labour with dull speeches, but enriched graphical boardroom presentations. They did not need to write letters back home from the university but emails and SMSs. They did not need to make a laborious reverse call to their market centre upcountry for the father to come an hour later (if it wasn’t in the wee hours of the night), but found the age of the cellphone, where time and geography had converged. They could call anytime from anywhere. They did not need to send or receive money via the snail post office systems but found the age of instant send and receive times of mobile money.
The parents and the children were adequately served with technology. Social networks made two-way, two-party information exchanges archaic. They leapfrogged into a whole new world of multichannel electronic relationships, which became a reality and fashion. The convergence of the fast and dynamic developments in ICT and the rise of the digital natives – the people born in the age of the Internet – make a peculiar blend.!
ICT presents enormous opportunities for the youth. These opportunities fall into two broad classes: Enablers and end-products. ICT offers great enablers for the government, the economy and business, the education, the church, the family and sports, culture and entertainment. This is most obvious in consideration of the minimized costs of communication, marketing and branding, sales and support for doing business. One could start a business and utilize the widespread opportunities on the Internet to reach a clientele across the world. Rather than wait idly for responses to hundreds of job applications, one can obtain online employment – write articles and books, conduct research, help companies build their brand online…
One can also develop ICT products for the market out there. An innovator can develop a simple application for school management and sell to a few schools. The initial price plus the costing for support and maintenance of the software offers an opportunity. The Internet is a vast universe of opportunity – for instance, one can develop a simple Internet-controlled device to close window curtains from the office/work station. Coupled with weather applications out there, a mother can sit pretty in the workplace. Get an alert of rains about to fall at home, press the button and close the curtains. This would be an instant hit in the emerging quality of life desires of our lives and times. As a consequence, a few more jobs would be created (the innovator youth would not be able to run the resultant company alone), the dependency ratio would be reduced, and the quality of life would improve.
What of the phobia of technology in some quarters? And the youth being considered a significant chunk of those negatively affected by the ubiquitous ICTs? Neither youth nor ICT are a tragedy! Neither are to frowned upon or shunned. ICT serves a genuine need for effectiveness and efficiency.
By Mwirigi Kiula
The writer works at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and is the author of “End of Life in Bondage: The Ultimate Transformation.” firstname.lastname@example.org