Dumb Phones, Smart Kids: The Coming Revolution of Citizen Engagement

Young people (ages 15 to 24) have been at the forefront of the rapid developments in the use of mobile platforms, and the impact of youthful ingenuity is just beginning to be felt. Three quarters of the world’s population have access to a mobile phone, with the developing world more “mobile” than the developed world. The majority of these users are young people, and they have been innovative in overcoming limitations of not having broadband access. “Narrowband” mobile communications applications—such as text messaging and scaled-down social networking—have been tailored by young users in developing countries with striking impact on participatory engagement in local government. Present and prospective uses will spread far wider and have as lasting impact as the Arab Spring and recent upheavals in Brazil. Present and future generations will have unprecedented leverage with youth “voice” in such areas as mobilization of demand, improvement of services, participatory engagement and accountability in local government.

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