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ZDI, Media Centre push for youth inclusion in internet governance

by Zimsentinel Correspondent
09 Apr 2018 at 14:31hrs | Views
Social media is emerging as powerful as ever in Zimbabwe from 2016 to date and could probably be the best weapon fashioned in as much as the promotion of democracy is concerned as it has been used as a sentinel for human rights activism world over.

The Arab spring and the subsequent overthrow of leaders in North Africa and the Middle East in 2011 and a few years after that was a result of general consensus and the use of the internet to express disaffection by the public and speak out, hold their governments accountable for the suppression of democracy in the respective countries especially by the youth through the internet heralded a wave of change in Africa as a whole.

In Zimbabwe, civic society organisations and government have been called upon to promote democracy through the use of the internet amongst the youth especially in anticipation of the 2018 harmonized elections.

In a research paper published by the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute in collaboration with Media Centre titled "INTERNET & TRANSITION TO A DEMOCRATIC DISPENSATION: NAVIGATING THE PLACE AND ROLE OF A ZIMBABWEAN YOUTH!" in Harare, a significant discovery that the youth are the primary consumers of social media and the internet was made.

"Social media (sic) has become popular among this social group (youths) as a new form of communication around the world and it has rapidly grown in significance as a forum for political activism in its various diverse forms," reads the report.

Hence, ZDI and Media Centre have established in the report that the youths should play an active role in the forthcoming elections by using the internet and social media in election monitoring and promotion of democracy.  

The youth are also encouraged to actively participate in promoting democracy through taking up youth activism in democracy issues especially election monitoring activities during, before and after the 2018 harmonized elections.

According to the research paper, social media has been instrumental in stimulating youth engagement in issues relating to accountability.

"Social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are providing new ways to stimulate citizen engagement with duty-bearers in political lifeā€¦" continues the paper.

The Constitution of the republic of Zimbabwe clearly stipulates under articles 62 and 63 that every Zimbabwean is entitled to access to the media and disseminate that information, that is through the various media platforms and in this day and age, the internet has been crucial in providing such platforms.

A survey of internet penetration in Zimbabwe by the Postal and Telecommunications Authority of Zimbabwe in 2016 indicated that internet penetration was at 50% with the majority of internet use in urban areas.

The rural youth and those from marginalized communities therefore continue face minimum exposure to social media, the internet and ICT's and this might become a hurdle in the realization of ZDI and Media Centres goal unless there is radical intervention in that regard.

ZDI and Media Centre's research also established that social media has been incorporated into mainstream media and has been fundamental in human rights reportage hence promoting democratic participation.

Economics is also another factor to consider regarding the issue of internet access and use amongst the youth in the forthcoming elections can also because generally in Zimbabwe most youths are unemployed and to make matters worse they are the breadwinners in the families they come from.

This results in prioritization of issues that generate income for the youth rather and general upkeep of the families they come from rather than promoting democracy and politics, it thus becomes a chief element affecting election monitoring with regards to the impending 2018 general election from an ICT perspective.

What is left is for the civil society, pressure groups and the business community to lobby the Zimbabwean government to promote the use of the internet particularly in peripheral communities whose youth dividend is generally segregated due to their proximity from urban areas where most formal business takes place and where the Government and businesses generally establish ICT infrastructure, by launching initiatives such as the one taken by ZDI and Media Centre to conscientise the youth on their relevance in promoting democracy.  

Click link below to view the full report and the summary video

Source - Zimsentinel