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News || Monday, 23 November 2015

The Best Way To Reach Youth? Use WhatsApp! New Research from DAI & Souktel

Across the developing world, youth are adopting new technology more quickly than the general population. What does this mean for development, and how do we harness it in our youth-focused programming? Some new learnings from Jordan provide guidance on how to make the most of ICT (Information and Communications Technology) for the mobile-first generation.

A recent survey of rural youth conducted by DAI’s Jordan Workforce Development Project and partner Souktel Digital Solutions in the country's 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.

This type of rapid 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.

Without this survey, we might have made some incomplete ICT choices with limited durability and sustainability. An initial investment in user surveying helps avoid the poor resource allocation decisions that happen when projects invest in obsolete or little-used technologies, due to lack of timely information. Social media won’t always be the answer – with youth, the next best thing is always around the corner.

By Kristen Roggemann, Principal Mobile Solutions Specialist at DAI. This article has been reprinted from ICTWorks.