Editor's Comment

Youths should use ICTs for economic gain

YESTERDAY, young people across the country gathered to celebrate Youth Day under the theme ‘Leveraging opportunities for youth through information and communication technologies (ICTs)’.
The theme is indeed timely and relevant considering that the youth are the biggest users of ICTs world over.
This category of the world’s population, also referred to as millennials or generation Y, are recognised to have embraced new technologies more than older generations.
Among the many ICT devices, the mobile phone stands out as the most accessed and used by youths.
Most young people access the internet and interact on social media through their mobile phones.
A 2015 ICT survey on ‘Access and usage of information and communication technology by households and individuals in Zambia’ revealed that 70 percent of the internet users are below 35 years. Further, 41.3 percent of internet users in the country are below the age of 24 while only 7.1 percent are above the age of 50.
This is certainly a strong indicator that in Zambia, like other parts of the world, young people are actively interacting with ICTs.
This should ordinarily give us hope for the future considering that ICT is well recognised as a key economic driver of any country.
It therefore goes to say, young people, who we consider as wizards of new technology, are better placed to transform our economy by exploring the many opportunities presented by ICTs.
It is an established fact that young people have been at the core of technological evolutions across the globe.
One such example is American computer programmer and internet entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg, who along with Harvard University colleagues, founded Facebook – the world’s renowned social media platform.
In another success and inspirational story, a pair of PhD students at Stanford University, California – Larry Page and Sergey Brin – founded the world’s most used search engine, Google.
These are young people who seized the opportunities presented by ICTs to transform the way people interact not only in their countries but at global level.
It is indisputable that ICTs open doors to a world of opportunities, which young people can tap into.
It is, therefore, our hope that yesterday’s celebrations presented an opportunity for young people to reflect on whether they are positively leveraging on the opportunities presented by new technology.
It is also hoped that young people have taken heed of President Edgar Lungu’s wise counsel to use ICTs to exploit entrepreneurial opportunities rather than abuse it.
While so many young people are actively interacting with ICTs, it is unfortunate that some of them are abusing this technology to spread falsehoods and obscene materials at the expense of both personal and national development.
As rightly advised by President Lungu, youths should rise up and exploit entrepreneurial opportunities instead of wasting their valuable time on things that do not benefit them and society in any way.
Youths should understand that they, too, have a role to play in the development of their country.
If young people in other countries are transforming their economies through ICTs, what can stop Zambian youths?
We believe Zambia has so many intelligent and gifted youths capable of harnessing the potential that is buried in ICTs.
We are aware that Government has been working to improve the digital space as well as increase access to ICTs.
For instance, Government, under the leadership of President Lungu, established a Smart Zambia initiative to co-ordinate ICT programmes across all sectors.
Apart from introducing ICTs in schools, Government is also rolling out an ICT Business Empowerment Scheme for young people. This is a programme aimed at empowering young people with knowledge and equipment to enable them to establish business centres.
A few days ago, Government also launched the YouthConnekt, a platform which connects youths to role models, resources, skills and economic development in the country.
The platform, which started in Rwanda in 2012, is being rolled out across Africa with the aim to reduce unemployment among youths and promote active citizenship.
The YouthConnekt platform is expected to co-ordinate and nurture collaboration between existing Zambian youth empowerment initiatives, hubs and a continental network of youth empowerment experts across Africa.
All these are programmes meant to create an environment in which young people can succeed and contribute to national development.
It is, therefore, up to the young people themselves to seize the opportunity.

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