|Digital Divide in Africa and the Challenges to Youth Development and the CLCWA
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| The African Youth Charter is convinced that Africa’s greatest resource is its youthful population and that through their active and full participation; Africans can surmount their difficulties that lie ahead.
The document also noted with great concern- the situation of African youth, many of whom are marginalized from mainstream society through inequalities in income, wealth, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, living in situation of poverty and hunger, experiencing illiteracy and poor quality educational systems, restricted to access to health services and to Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs). They are exposed to violence and conflicts, including gender violence. They engage in conflicts and experience various forms of discrimination.
It also acknowledges, without doubt, the increasing calls and the enthusiasm of youth to actively participate at local, national and international levels to determine their own development and the advancement of society at large. Considering that the promotion of and protection of the rights of youth also implies the performance of duties by youth and by other actors in society.
ICTs can be used in developing and utilizing the creative and productive potential of young people. This has been articulated in initiatives such as the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) and the African Information Society Initiative (AISI).
New technologies can be used to unleash creativity, innovation, better education, entrepreneurship, decent employment and leadership among young people. As a tool, ICTs can foster youth leadership. Already ICTs have been deployed to assist in building peace and conflict management by youth in some communities in Africa.
Though youth have been a largely missing target group in most national development and international frameworks and strategies, they have been observed, worldwide, to be reliable and effective agents of technological change and harbingers of the information age, bringing existing technologies into their communities or sectors where lack of access to information has undermined and constrained development.
Equipping youth with information technology skills, creating an enabling environment for ICT innovations , entrepreneurship and employment, promoting their utilization in policy formulation and in production, consumption and exchange- can go a long way to catapult Africa over the digital divide triangle and bring her into the global information society, where her future lies.
To date, it is still rather unfortunate that the employment generation and other development activities for youth have been ad hoc, lacking policy support and measurable impact.
In line with the increasing calls of African youth to participate to the determination of their own development, the World Youth Report 2005 stated in confirmation that societies that fail to acknowledge the particular challenges facing youth and to involve them in devising solutions, will find it difficult to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) including sharp reductions on poverty levels by 2015.
The increasing divide of the youth of Africa, especially the ones from the West Africa, between the information rich of the urban areas and the information poor of the rural areas, calls for greater attention to fill the gap. We have heard and seen many best practices that are working and already succeeding in bridging the gap through telecentres and technology parks.
However, these have really affected and impacted the African youth at the city without much for the youth at the rural areas or at the base. TakingITGlobal’s program for Creating Local Connections (CLC) especially in West Africa (CLC WA) is dedicated to creating connections for young people that are divided and disadvantaged, while providing the way for realizing their potential to become action partners in community development.
We would like to see a promotion of creative innovations and creative contents from these youth and youth organizations. Also, ICT policies that are directed towards empowerment of the youth at the base should be put in practice, along with training that should be provided to use the tools and technology for personal and community development. Maybe, what we urgently need is Creating of Local Connections (CLC) everywhere!
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Henry Ekwuruke is Executive Director of the Development Generation Africa International.
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