By Wairimu Njage
Published January 5, 2011
Most Kenyan youth are unemployed, inactive and face the real threat of poverty, according to reasearch. Up to 800,000 young people leave school every year to take up non-existent jobs in this eastern Africa country that is ranked by the UNDP and the National Economic and Social Council as one of the most unequal societies in the world.
A survey seeking to understand how young people view issues was launched in Kenya by PWH in August 2010. The survey defined Generation Y or Millennials as people born between 1979 and 1991 and Generation Z as those born between 1992 and 2008.
Both groups, known as the e-Generation or digital natives, are the main users of new Information Communications Technology (ICT) such as the internet and short text messaging service (SMS).
The e-Generation has been brought up with the internet and displays an ability to sort information and accomplish several tasks at the same time. Research has shown that the youth have formed a great capacity to skim read and to take out only the bits and pieces they are interested in little wonder they are also called the “copy-paste” generation!
The findings are that factual issues are often more important than the combined, general information offered by authorities.
When looking for information about a political issue, they start by posing a question in a search engine, such as Google, which leads to Wikipedia and then to an authority’s homepage.
The youth simply phrase a question about their very specific field of interest. For a young person, pages of interest would be those that answer the question quickly and accurately.
Survey results tell us that the most common way for the youth to express an opinion is through “new social media” such as Twitter, blogs and online articles. The youth use social media as a means of defining themselves to others and also because it is time efficient.
However, paradoxically, they believe the effect of these actions, is small, in comparison to traditional ways of taking action, such as demonstrating in the streets.
Maximum impact is gained through traditional fora involving face to face meetings with decision makers in person and contacting mass media.
Although young people’s interest in traditional political parties and organisations is successively decreasing, the internet is also used to mobilise opinion and involvement “sometimes with surprising strength” something which governments, organisations and companies all over the world have experienced.
Surprisingly, the youth consider traditional institutions, in particular politicians and journalists, to have a great impact on society while “citizens” are thought to have limited impact which means that they believe traditional institutions more than new social media when it comes to influence.
The writer is a manager in PwC people and Change