For many rural youth, ICTs – mobile phones, video games, cash dispensers or Internet cafes – are associated with an urban lifestyle. This is one of the many reasons why young people in ACP countries leave rural areas and migrate to the cities, in search of jobs and a better life.
However, recent years have seen an increase in the use of ICTs in rural areas, despite persistent problems such as poor connectivity, lack of access and the high costs. This trend is encouraging because ICTs can provide income-generating opportunities, and can help make village life more attractive for young people. Moreover, ICT-related jobs require a certain set of skills, and providing these skills to young people is an important step towards creating employment in rural areas.
Many initiatives are currently underway to improve rural connectivity, and to provide young people with access to ICTs and the skills they need to use them. This issue of ICT Update highlights some of these initiatives. Hemaima Tutuo reports on the Youth First Computer Centre, which offers ICT training and distance learning courses for young people throughout the Solomon Islands. In an award-winning story, Haru Mutasa describes how students at four schools in Grahamstown, South Africa, are enthusiastically using computers to download information from the Internet, produce a newspaper and create their own presentations. Sylvestre Ouédraogo describes how the Yam Pukri youth forum is enabling young people in Burkina Faso to communicate with their peers around the world. Finally, Hemlata Jain explains how the Owerri Digital Village is providing ICT training for disadvantaged youth in eastern Nigeria to help them develop their self-confidence and an entrepreneurial spirit.
All of these examples demonstrate that providing young people with access to ICTs can open up a world of opportunities for them. Indeed, as Titi Akinsanmi concludes in the Q&A, access to information is the key to helping rural youth expand their horizons.