SA Youth Simply Need Access to Information to Improve Their Lives

By Staff Writer    16-Jun-2013 11:38 UTC+02:00 1

As we commemorate Youth Day, millions of young people across the country are faced with unemployment and poverty. Yesterday President Jacob Zuma said the youth must not waste time by waiting to improve their lives some time in the future, saying they should take action now. The ANC also said the youth should fight for economic freedom. However, this is easier said than done. Without the right skills and resources, it can be very hard for people to effect positive change in their lives. Many young people have no idea what to do with their lives because they don’t have the right skills and resources. They don’t even know how to open companies and start their own businesses. Our government is to blame for this because it hasn’t ensured that every citizen of this country has easy access to information.

In developed countries we frequently hear about university or high school dropouts who invented some product or online tool and went on to become multimillionaires or billionaires. It is not because people from other countries are wiser or more creative than South Africans. It’s just because in their countries they have access to something that most South Africans don’t: Information. Without information, there is nothing one can do. The South African government needs to make effort to ensure that citizens of this country, especially youth, can access information easily without having to go to university or pay too much money to get it.

If Zuma is serious that he wishes to make education free for all, he should make important resources accessible for free on the internet. On Google and Wikipedia for example, one can find more information than in a university library. Many people in America and Europe have access to the internet at home. That is why there are many rich young innovators and entrepreneurs that come from these countries. They get access to the right information at an early age. Many South Africans start using a computer around the age of 19, when they enter university or college. During that time, they have to focus on their studies. They never get enough time to explore the information available on the internet. The internet is a very useful source of information.

Sean Parker, a billionaire who dropped out of college once said, “Skip college and Google your education”. I am not encouraging people to drop out of college. However, Parker proved that information from the internet can help one to improve their life. Education doesn’t have to be certified to work for someone. There are so many entrepreneurs who don’t need formal university qualifications to start successful businesses. All they need is information. However, accessing the internet in South Africa is very expensive. With the high rate of unemployment in this country, many young people cannot afford to buy airtime and access the internet on their phones and computers or to pay for internet usage at internet cafes. They end up staying at home, depressed, not knowing what to do with their lives. Others end up resorting to crime, drugs and alcohol.

If the government wants to see a new breed of innovators and entrepreneurs in this country, it should ensure that everyone has access to the internet. In 2008, only 6 million South Africans had access to the internet. It was predicted that this number would increase to 9 million in 2014. In a country with over 50 million people, 9 million is still very low. In China, about 50% of the population (+-700 million people) have internet access. This enables them to do important research on any business or project they want to undertake, which may be the reason why there are so many products that are made in China.

These days it is very hard to accomplish anything without being connected to the internet. Despite this, over 40 million South Africans have no access to the internet, yet we expect our youth to be creative and come up with new employment opportunities. This is unrealistic. If the government wants the youth to be creative, it should grant them free access to the world of discovery and creativity: the internet. Even an unemployed person feels less depressed if they have access to the internet. Making important resources on the internet accessible for free would be the same as granting bursaries to entrepreneurs. It would also help students to access learning resources easily. Surely, this would have a positive impact on the economy of South Africa.

One may argue that the youth would abuse free internet and use it to download games and access adult_content. However, this can be controlled easily by internet services providers, so that only important resources can be accessed for free. Cell C for example, gives its subscribers free access to MXit. Surely, the government, in collaboration with South African telecommunications providers, can do something to offer more useful resources to the youth for free. Those resources can include Wikipedia, government websites, the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission’s (CIPC) website, academic institution websites, selected job portals, etc. Although this may not be a silver bullet to all the challenges facing young people of South Africa, it can go a long way in helping them to improve their lives. The government of Finland, seeing the importance of the internet in society, made it a legal right for every citizen of that country to have internet connection. South Africa should do the same in order to empower its youth and equip them with the resources they need to partake in the struggle for economic freedom.


  1. Stacy says:

    MTN now offers free access to Wikipedia. I wonder if anyone from Mtn read this article 🙂

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