By Thabani Zwelibanzi
Bulawayo leads in terms of the youth’s access to the internet, with 79,2% of young people have access to the web, a new report released by the British council shows.
The report, titled “Next Generation Zimbabwe” shows that Harare followed Bulawayo, with 76,2% of the capital’s youth population having access to the internet.
This is in contrast to Mashonaland West, where only 38,2% of the youth have access to the internet, and Matabeleland North where only one in two young persons use the internet.
Overall, the picture looks promising, as three out of five (59%) Zimbabwean youth have access to the internet.
However, 38.3% of the youth reported that they had no access to the internet.
“Of the youth who have access to the internet, over 90% use phones to connect on a daily basis and just over 23% use a desktop computer to connect on a daily basis,” the report says.
“Despite high unemployment rates among the youth, most of them prioritised owning a smartphone.”
Predictably, the report says there is more usage of the internet among urban than rural youth, although the patterns of use were quite similar.
The report says the youth mainly used the internet for searching for information, Facebook, listening to music, gaming, email, dating and Twitter.
Others used the internet to search for professional and personal opportunities and also to keep abreast of socio-economic developments.
“A lot of political debate in Zimbabwe takes place on social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter, which may suggest that the youth go to non-traditional platforms for political engagement,” the report says.
When it comes to news consumption, the report showed that young people in urban areas preferred content on SABC, eNCA, BBC and CNN, with most of them knowing what is happening in foreign countries than what is taking place in Zimbabwe.
The dominance of one broadcaster, ZBC, is the reason many young people said they chose to watch foreign channels.
The young people that were polled in the study showed that their preferred news sources were Facebook, family and friends among others.
Among other findings, the report said 80% of respondents said they were unaware of the government’s youth empowerment policy and nine out of 10 felt that the government was not much help.
On its website, the British Council said Next Generation Zimbabwe explores the attitudes, aspirations and needs of young people across the country, looking at their views on the opportunities available to them, their interaction with family and friends, their values, and how they view Zimbabwe and its place in the world, specifically in light of the change following the 2018 election.
Next Generation is a global research programme initiated in countries that are experiencing a period of significant change, with the purpose of ensuring that young people’s voices are heard and their interests properly represented in decisions that will have lasting implications for their lives.