Information and communications technology (ICT) is an integral component of the increasingly technology-driven global economic and social landscape. For many of us, ICT has become the principal way we communicate and get informed, shop or sell and increasingly how we learn, bank, advocate, get medical guidance or engage with our government. As the first generation of “digital natives,” ICTs – both old and new– have arguably become akin to a central nervous system among (many) youth. ICT has also become an essential component to improved outcomes across the domains of wellbeing, including civic participation, economic opportunity, education, health, and safety and security. This is particularly true for youth; at a local level, finances, transportation, information sharing, and innovation are increasingly linked with technology, and all represent important components to youths’ lives. As recent surveys have indicated, youth in emerging and developed economies alike are increasingly dependent on the internet; by the end of 2011, 45% of the 2.3 billion global internet users were younger than 25, and this demographic is projected to increase. Yet there remain large economic and regional disparities in global youths’ access to ICT. In 2012, just over 9 percent of Africans youth aged 15-24, and 79 percent of European youth, had used the internet for five years.

In the Global Youth Wellbeing Index that was recently released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the International Youth Foundation (IYF), we highlighted the importance of ICT in youth wellbeing. Of the forty indicators that comprise the Index, five make up the ICT domain and include access to electricity, households with radios, ICT for development score, digital natives, and youths’ dependence on the internet.

“ICT and youth have long been linked as new generation embrace new technology to improve their lives, find jobs, and engage their community.”

-Nick Martin, Co-founder and president, TechChange

A few key findings

Index findings indicate a strong correlation between ICT, countries’ income levels, and overall levels of youth wellbeing. Countries that perform best in ICT are generally those upper and upper-middle income countries that perform best in the overall ranking of youth wellbeing. South Korea, Sweden, the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Australia, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Brazil are the top ten performers within the ICT domain, and nine of these countries, with the exception of Brazil, are top ten performers in the overall rankings.

There are significant disparities in ICT access and development between developed and developing countries, beginning with foundational access to electricity. Out of the six domains comprising the Index, there is the largest gap between the top and bottom performer scores in the ICT domain, with South Korea at .94, and Uganda at .18, indicating wide disparity in ICT development between the thirty Index countries. Developed countries have substantially higher levels of mobile phone and internet use, house more digital natives, and youth who indicate a higher dependence on the internet. There is a smaller, but still significant, gap in access to electricity and radio ownership between developed and developing countries.

Additionally, a few countries perform better in the ICT domain than in their overall Index rankings. At 25th place overall, Russia, for example, ranks 13th in the ICT domain, with high access to electricity, mobile phone and internet access, youth dependence on the internet, higher numbers of digital natives. Brazil, too, ranks significantly higher in the ICT domain at 10th place, compared with its 15th place ranking overall, and performs above average in each of the five indicators.

Countries in the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region also perform well in this domain compared to its overall Index performance. Saudi Arabia performs best among the MENA countries, while Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco also perform significantly better in the ICT domain than in their overall ranking of youth wellbeing, indicative of the MENA region’s burgeoning technology sector. Mexico and Nigeria, two other countries with growing technology sectors, also perform well in this domain.

Conversely, some upper middle income countries perform lower in the ICT domain than in their overall Index ranking. Thailand, for example, ranks significantly lower in ICT, at 19th place, than it does overall, at 10th place. While Thais have above average access to electricity, and youth indicate a slight dependence on the internet, there are fewer digital natives and households with radios, and mobile phone and internet access is lower. South Africa, another upper middle income country, also faces significant challenges in the ICT domain, scoring below the average in every indicator except household radios.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, lower income countries perform the worst in this domain. The 10 lowest performing countries are located in the Southeastern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa region. Many lower income countries still face challenges in basic access to electricity, which heavily influences their performance across the other domain indicators.

A couple key conclusions

First, countries with greater economic resources and private sector investment have more supportive ICT infrastructure that enables them to perform better on indicators related to access to electricity, mobile phone and internet access, radio ownership, digital natives, and youths’ dependence on the internet. Perhaps unsurprisingly, youth in more advanced economies generally express greater reliance on the internet today. Japanese youth however indicate that the internet is less central in their lives than other top performers; and young Jordanians express above average dependence on the internet, though other indicators of access remain weaker.

Second, as we’ve highlighted in our other Index domain discussions, data remains limited, or nonexistent altogether, for a number of important ICT performance-based measurements. While there have been important contributions recently to the data body on certain elements of ICT usage among youth, such as International Telecommunications Union’s most recent (2013) Measuring the Information Society Report which included the digital native dataset on internet use, more data on youth and gender-disaggregated access to and use of other media and technology (such as mobile phones) could highlight opportunities for investment and partnerships to increase youths’ educational outcomes, civic participation, and economic opportunity. This, in turn, could promote more inclusive growth in both developing and developed economies.

As youth have said themselves in the Bynd 2015 Declaration, “Health, civic engagement, online protection, environmental protection and economic success all depend on having unfettered access to knowledge which ICTs can extend to everyone.” While investments and efforts must be made to bridge digital divides and mitigate their negative consequences or use, ICTs can be a powerful tool to improve education, health, and governance outcomes, and make training relevant in larger development initiatives in the Post-2015 era. You can explore the data and download the reports at

Global Youth Wellbeing Index

Dr. Nicole Goldin is director of the Youth, Prosperity and Security Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in partnership with the International Youth Foundation (IYF). Follow her on Twitter @nicolegoldin.

Did you know that prior to founding an e-learning social enterprise, TechChange President Nick Martin did his undergraduate degree in Modern Poetry?

Nick recently returned to his alma mater, Swarthmore College, where he participated in a panel discussion on “What I Learned From Trying to Change the World” during the school’s alumni weekend. To an audience of approximately 150 people, Nick spoke with three fellow alumni representing the Peace Corps, Princeton University, and Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia on the lessons they learned in their respective social change industries.

United with the common threads of a liberal arts education at Swarthmore and careers driven by the desire to change the world, here are the pearls of wisdom they shared based on their social change careers so far:

Lesson 1:

“You learn the most and you learn the quickest when you get yourself out there.” -F.F. Quigley, Country Director, Thailand, Peace Corps

We often learn and gain the most from doing what we are afraid of. The impact of this lesson could not be truer and is something we always need to be urging ourselves to do.

Lesson 2:

“Be careful not to be too righteous” -Lourdes Rosado, Associate Director of Juvenile Law Center (Philadelphia, PA)

Be able to disagree with others while maintaining respect for them and their opinions. Sometimes the only way to achieve progress is by working with, and not against, those who challenge us.

Lesson 3:

“We need to take time to ask better questions.” -Carolyn Rouse, Professor of Anthropology, Princeton University

While Carolyn Rouse worked to establish a high school in the outskirts of Accra, Ghana, she learned that sometimes stability matters more than change. When looking to make the world a better place, we need to challenge assumptions, as not everything aligns clearly to a cut-and-dry cost-benefit analysis. With anything life, do not be afraid to ask questions and challenge the status quo.

Lesson 4:

“Community matters.” -Nick Martin, President & CEO, TechChange

We are shaped by the people we surround ourselves with. Whether hiring people to join your start-up or choosing your friends, the values and attitudes of those we associate ourselves with have a strong impact on the people we become.

To check out the entire talk, click here and fast forward to 32:30 to catch Nick’s segment.

Do you have a liberal arts education that you have applied to try to change the world? What lessons have you learned along the way? Tell us in the comments below or tweet us @TechChange.

In the last decade, social media has spread quickly across the world and has grown not just in terms of number of users on popular platforms, but also in terms of new niche platforms tailored for specific populations.

With Facebook’s 1 billion active users, the 500 million tweets that flood the Internet daily via Twitter, and the 6 billion hours of YouTube videos available online, it is clear that social media has been integrated into the daily digital lives of many people globally. Combine that with the fact that 85% of the world’s population has access to the Internet – and to many of these social networks – and you’ll find a tool that has revolutionized the way groups around the globe interact with each other.

As popular as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are, the diversity of social media platforms and the way people interact on these platforms are as diverse as the different cultures of these users. According to the social media API aggregation company, GNIP, 49% of tweets in 2013 were in a language other than English. Facebook is also available in several dozen languages.

Twitter languages

Source: GNIP / New York Times

This “World Map of Social Networks” from shows how the dominant social media sites have changed since 2009.


Facebook has clearly become a global leader, but its prominence can be deceptive – many more country-specific social networks have grown rapidly with extremely active user bases. In countries like China, where Facebook and Twitter are banned, sites like RenRen and Weibo, which have similar user interfaces and features, have sprung up. According to a recent article by Forbes magazine, Tencent, the parent company of China’s leading social media platform, is poised to overtake Facebook in terms of average monthly users.

wearesocial-social-media-penetration-worldwide-e1389183989165 wearesocial-social-media-penetration-worldwide-2-e1389184630143

Source: We Are Social /

Alternative social networks are also popular in countries in which Facebook is legal. ZingMe, for example, is extremely popular in Vietnam among teenagers and young adults and Yookos is an emerging network in southern and sub-saharan Africa; the amount of existing social media platforms worldwide is in the thousands.

Social media is designed to bring people together in different ways; it connects governments and organizations with the public and allows for the diffusion of information across the world quickly and efficiently. The limits of social media and its uses are still being defined; issues such as privacy and freedom of speech – and the lack thereof – have been repeatedly debated around the world.

If social media is used differently across the world, what does this mean for social media campaigns for social causes? How do we know what the best tools are to use for targeting specific audiences? Defining and understanding who your target audience is is one of the first steps of designing an effective social change campaign. The ever-evolving social media landscape will be important to understand in order to communicate the right messages, on the right platform, for the right people, and in the right way, to be effective.

How is social media used in your country? Let us know in the comment section below or tweet us @TechChange.

Check out some of the additional resources we’ve come across that visualize the global diversity of social media:

Come and join us in our discussion about the global diversity of social media and more in our upcoming Social Media for Social Change online course, which begins this Monday!

With social media technology changing daily, it can sometimes be challenging to keep up with the latest platforms and their newest features, and the seemingly endless stream of content, information, and campaigns.

Recently as we’ve been preparing for the Social Media for Social Change course, we’ve been focusing on the power and limits of “hashtag activism” by examining examples such as #BringBackOurGirls and #YesAllWomen.

Check out the Montreal-based CJAD news radio talkshow interview from last week featuring TechChange’s Director of Marketing, Nancy Ngo, on hashtag activism here:

Hashtags aren’t the only way social media users are advocating for causes. We’ll be analyzing a variety of campaigns and social change movements that have used various social media tools in different ways in our second round of our Social Media for Social Change online course, which begins on Monday, June 16. A very dynamic group of guest expert speakers will join us from organizations such as, the Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative, Uber, and more. Lawrence Grodeska from who will share how has revolutionized online petitions in campaigns such as advocating justice for Trayvon Martin. Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative’s Michael Poffenberger will share his experiences from the Kony 2012 campaign to capture Joseph Kony and draw comparisons with the recent BringBackOurGirls campaign. Alex Priest of Uber will discuss ways that Uber utilizes social media in optimizing urban logistics.

Several participants from many countries including Czech Republic, Jordan, Mexico, New Zealand, Thailand, and across the U.S. have already enrolled in this round of this course, representing organizations such as World Bank Group, USAID, ICRC, World Green Building Council, Oxfam, AARP International, Cornell University, Abt Associates, Chemonics International, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, and many more. All of these participants will be bringing their own perspectives as both social media users and social change advocates for their respective organizations and initiatives.

What’s your take on hashtag activism and social media advocacy? Do you agree with Nancy? Join the conversation with these social media experts and participants across the world to learn more about social media’s role in catalyzing social change. Enroll now in our Social Media for Social Change course here.

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to work with hundreds of talented educators from all corners of the world. Two in particular who have had a tremendous impact on my life and approach to education at TechChange are Daryn Cambridge and Mohit Mukherjee.

Take a few minutes and watch both of their talks below. You’ll be glad you did!

Mohit and I met in the cafeteria line at the University for Peace back in 2005 while I was a student there and he was working for an organization on campus called the Earth Charter. I’ve been proud to call him a colleague and a friend ever since. I’ve taken many of his workshops through his center on topics like nonprofit leadership, social entrepreneurship, and education for the 21st century – they were all extremely useful and had tremendous impact helping to shape our approach at TechChange.

Watch his amazing TEDx talk below on Educating ChangeMakers.

Daryn and I met as he was finishing his Masters at AU and I was running an organization called DCPEACE, prior to TechChange. DCPEACE was a practical and comprehensive peace education program for elementary school students in Washington DC. He ran a series of teacher trainings for the program and worked as a teacher mentor. Over the years he and I have taught courses together, collaborated on various online learning activities, and more. He’s one of the brightest minds working in peace education today. Daryn currently works at the US Institute of Peace. Check out his phenomenal TEDx Talk below on Teaching and Learning Peace Online.

Thanks to Daryn and Mohit for sharing their thoughts on education via TEDx. We’re proud to work with you both!