Guess Which Communications Platform Youth Prefer Today?

Youth are adopting new technology faster and smarter than the general population. We know this anecdotally and witness it in our daily lives as we interact with youth in our communities. But what does this mean for development, and how do we harness it our youth-focused programming? Some new learnings from Jordan provide guidance on how to make the most of ICT for the mobile-first generation.
What Youth Are Using These Days
A recent survey of rural youth conducted by DAI’s Jordan Workforce Development Project and partner Souktel Digital Solutions in the Zarqa, Marqa, Irbid and Tafilah Governorates found that:

  • 93% of surveyed youth had access to a mobile phone
  • 76% had access to a smartphone
  • 82% used WhatsApp on a regular basis
  • 86% used Facebook on a regular basis
  • As a preferred means of communication and information sharing/gathering: 52% preferred Facebook, 35% preferred WhatsApp, and 3% preferred SMS.

These statistics aren’t coming from Jordan’s high-income minority: Survey participants were marginalized youth, in government training programs, in the poorest and most rural governorates. These numbers may surprise you. They certainly surprised us.
How We Adapted
This type of quick and dirty data collection enabled us to make rational, end user- and data-driven decisions about what type of ICT interventions would make the most impact for our target population.
For example: we are augmenting our SMS and IVR platforms by building WhatsApp-based solutions, investing in training, and pushing forward policy reforms to enable these centers to leverage the technologies their youth stakeholders use and love – social media and WhatsApp.
We are working with training centers to ensure their staff have the skills to use these tools, to enhance not only their communications and outreach – but also facilitate their mentoring, teaching and student and alumni support. Many of the ideas and techniques come from training institute teachers we spoke to during the survey process.
These enterprising teachers saw the significant role social media played in their students’ lives and seized the opportunity to use it for class communications and management. What we are now working to do is successfully institutionalize that behavior.
We All Need to Adapt
Without this survey, we might have made some incomplete ICT choices with limited durability and sustainability. The first step in every ICT4D project design process should be a field assessment to gather real-time information on what, how and why your target audience uses technology.
Technology adoption moves far too fast for us to believe that what we proposed in an RFP response two years ago is still accurate.
An initial investment in user surveying helps avoid the poor resource allocation choices that happen when projects invests in obsolete or little-used technologies due to lack of up-to-date information. Social media won’t always be the answer – with kids these days, the next best thing is always around the corner.
By Kristen Roggemann, Principal Mobile Solutions Specialist at DAI