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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mobile Revolution Will be a Game-Changer for the Youth in MENA

"At the moment the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) is the youngest in the world. These youths, however, are also some of the most unemployed and undereducated young people in the world, due to recurrent instability and chronic mismanagement. But in terms of mobile ownership and internet access MENA has entered the digital age, and its low average age is proving to be an asset." according to Andrew Braun, work towards a master’s degree in political science.

Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Currently, the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) is the youngest in the world, with over 30% (100 million) of its population aged between 15 and 29. These youths, however, are also some of the most unemployed and undereducated young people in the world, due to recurrent instability and chronic mismanagement. 23% of men ages 15-29 are unemployed, and for women of the same age that figure rises to 44%. And even those who attend school aren’t getting a great deal: roughly 50% of primary and middle school students in the region do not meet basic literacy standards.

However, in terms of mobile ownership and internet access MENA has certainly entered the digital age, and its low average age is proving to be an asset. It is no secret that young people make excellent early adopters of technology. If you’re under the age of 25 and living in the US, for example, the chances of you owning a smartphone are almost as high as the chances that Kanye West will do something embarrassing this year. That is to say, about 85%. If you’re over 45, that number goes down by about 15%, as does the probability that you are familiar with Kanye West (don’t look him up; ignorance is bliss in this case).

There is no exception to this rule in the Middle East: Middle Eastern youths are tech-savvy and know their way around a smartphone. However, in the famously unstable, still-developing Arab states, the results of this shift towards connectivity and mobile technology looks a bit different...

Education
In addition to the thriving startup culture, the beginnings of free online education in the Middle East are also starting to show promise: take Mike Dawson’s Ustad Mobile—a platform for delivering educational materials to the underserved, particularly in the Middle East. This is only one of several initiatives to provide both basic literacy and more advanced education to the region, and for those with internet access and English skills, the horizon of learning is nearly infinite.

Finally, the mobile industry itself has grown to a point where it adds 4.4% to the region’s overall GDP [PDF]—and that only counts the one million it directly employs, the 600,000 its services directly support, and the high taxation rate it is subject to. As we have seen, there is a whole realm of possibilities that increased connectivity offers. It may well be one of the best things that has happened to MENA economies in a long time, and once the internet ecosystem has become more firmly established there is a lot of potential for this young workforce to broaden their focus towards technology exports.
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Source: IDG Connect


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