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Digital Storytelling as a Form of Youth Development

By Kelechi Edozie-Anyadiegwu on June 22, 2011

The practice of storytelling is a fundamental practice in communities through out the developing world. Storytelling allows for monumental moments of times past to be preserved through oral history, it is seen as a form of intangible cultural heritage. Because of this, storytelling is a practice already entrenched in the minds of youth from developing communities. They understand the implications of storytelling and the positive impacts it has.

With that said, the Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) field is all about empowering denizens of third world communities in the interest of socio-economic development. How can empowerment be achieved? By affording these denizens the tools they need to present their voices and ideas on a global stage. It is for this reason, digital storytelling amongst youth is increasingly becoming used in the education sector of ICT4D. Cybersmart.org says:

“Digital storytelling is a term used to describe how ordinary people can use digital media to tell authentic, real-life stories. It’s a grassroots movement that has been adapted by educators, the media, and social activists who see value in applying today’s digital tools to the age-old storytelling process.”

In the context of education, digital storytelling affords students many skills that will be beneficial to them as they enter the global marketplace and the opportunity to create something that they can contribute on a global platform. According to Yuksel, Robin and McNeil:

Digital storytelling can be used with students to allow them to construct their own understanding or experience in a content area , facilitate collaborative activities in which students work together in a small group , promote in-class discussion, help them learn problem solving and critical thinking skills, understand complex ideas, and introduce them to new content.


In 2008 Nokia and Plan teamed up to produce Youth Empowerment through Arts and Media (YETAM). YETAM is an initiative that allows youth to discuss issues impacting their lives through media arts and technology.

Using mapping, participatory video, visual arts, and performing arts as a means of investigation and expression, youth, aged 12-18, work in small teams to identify resources and challenges in their communities, understand more about causes and effects of key issues impacting on youth, and learn about different viewpoints held by community members and community leaders around those issues. They then produce arts and media about the issues and develop an action plan to raise awareness and community support to begin resolving the issues.

YETAM is unique, in that this project that is tackling the issue of digital literacy and global communications. Exhibiting the ways in which media technology can be used to bring about change in communities. The video below is a prime example of the goals of YETAM, as one girls interviews another about the use of ICTs. What is beautiful about this video is that after the video, the girl conducting the interview says: “When I was there, speaking, I felt like I was on top of the world because people were listening to my voice.” Quotes like this are a true testament to the confidence endowed by ICTs.

Wafalme Boys

An example of a Digital Storytelling success can be found with the Wafalme Boys of Kenya. They are a group of young Kenyan teens, won the ‘1 Minute to Save the World’ competition hosted by Passion Pictures for their ‘Me and My Bike’ video. Wafalme is a group out of Nairobi, Kenya known for using hip hop music as a medium to deliver their message. “The group offers the simple yet very real message that bicycles are an environmentally-friendly mode of transportation that can cut down on worldwide carbon dioxide emissions.

One lyric states, “It’s good for my health, because I need to exercise, it doesn’t need any gas, just my feet and my eyes.” These boys have brought notoriety to a an issue that not only plagues Kenya, but plagues developing communing all over the world. What these boy did embodies not only the idea of digital storytelling but it embodies the idea of IT for development, empowerment.


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I am currently an undergraduate student at Michigan State University, majoring in Media and Communication Technology with specializations in African Studies and Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D). My interests include ICT4D and Human-Computer Interaction for Development (HCI4D). I am very passionate about the ways in which ICTs can be used as a told for social and economic upliftment in the third world.My dream is to have a role in socio-economic development of African countries, to discern how greater technology adoption in Africa could aid in achieving social and economic development. I would also like to see an Africa where youth have the same life chances as their counterparts abroad. making this dream a reality calls for the mobilization of African youth, to help them build the tool that they need to enter and become successful in a globalizing economy.
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One Comment to “Digital Storytelling as a Form of Youth Development”

  1. Muraya Kamau says:

    Very informative. A similar initiative has been brought up by thekuyuproject.org on storyspaces.org . It will be good to see the impact these types of initiatives will bring up in the near future.