Young people are adopting new technology faster and smarter than the general population. We know this anecdotally and witness it in our daily lives as we interact with youths in our communities. But what does this mean for development, and how do we harness it our youth-focused programming? Some new learnings from Jordan provide guidance on how to make the most of ICT for the mobile-first generation.

What Youth Are Using These Days

A recent survey of rural young people conducted by DAI’s Jordan Workforce Development Project and partner Souktel Digital Solutions in the Irbid, Marqa, Tafilah, and Zarqa governorates found that:

  • 93 percent of surveyed young people owned a mobile phone

  • 76 percent owned a smartphone

  • 82 percent used WhatsApp on a regular basis

  • 86 percent used Facebook on a regular basis

As a preferred means of communication and information sharing/gathering: 52 percent preferred Facebook, 35 percent preferred WhatsApp, and 3 percent preferred text messages. Interestingly, women slightly preferred WhatsApp over Facebook. When asked about this, the surveyed women cited WhatsApp’s ability to have multiple groups and conversations with more privacy, suggesting that privacy is an important user need to consider when engaging with young women.

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.

How We Adapted

This type of quick and dirty 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 text message and interactive voice response platforms by building WhatsApp-based solutions, investing in training, and pushing 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. We are now working to institutionalize that behavior.

We All Need to Adapt

Without this survey, we might have made some incomplete ICT choices with limited durability and sustainability. The first step in every ICT4D project design process should be a field assessment to gather real-time information on what, how, and why your target audience uses technology.

Technology adoption moves far too fast for us to believe that what we proposed two years ago is still accurate.

An initial investment in user surveying helps avoid the poor resource allocation choices that happen when projects invest in obsolete or little-used technologies due to lack of up-to-date information. Social media won’t always be the answer with kids these days; the next best thing is always around the corner.

Use social media yourself? Share your stories on Twitter @DAIGlobal, or comment below!

Note: This post has been reprinted from ICTWorks and has been updated from the original.