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Young People: the Future of ICT4D?

By Lindsay Poirier on September 7, 2011

Reliant, incompetent, self-loving, all-around-pains-in-the-neck: This is the typical stereotype for young professionals in the workforce today. It is often noted that, due to the excessive coddling and praise that they received while growing up, those born in the Millennial Generation (1981+), are much more difficult to accommodate in the corporate world.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the trend over the past few decades:


  1. On sports teams, all players get a trophy because “everyone is a winner.”
  2. Kids are told that trying hard in school is more important than getting good grades.
  3. At older ages, teens rely on their parents to deal with issues that come up in school and work.

With this upbringing, a significant number of recent college graduates entering the workforce anticipate a work environment different from that in which most companies currently operate. In fact, many companies have found that they need to ease up their dress code policies, offer lenient hours, and spread lots of praise for work in order to appease young new-comers. Some even hire consultants to help them cope with the changing demographic.

And if they don’t do this? Those who fit Millennial mold will not hesitate to quit a job in search of something better. They have been told since they were little to aspire to their “dream job,” and they will not be satisfied until they acquire it. With this in mind, as young professionals fill job openings, companies will be forced to alter the way their offices are run.

While this serves as a potential annoyance or inconvenience to those holding current positions, less cited qualities describe why Millennials can be true assets to companies and organizations, particularly in ICT4D.

Millennials are social citizens.

Along with praise and coddling, Millennials were often told, “you can do anything that you set your mind to.” With this, the generation developed to be passionate and idealistic. They dream of making the world a better place and have been shown to volunteer more than any other generation. While the group is not yet in a position to donate heavily to non-profit efforts, they advocate for causes through whichever outlets are available. The Social Citizens Initiative by the Case Foundation has done a great deal of research on this.

Millennials collaborate with others to produce better results.

The Millennial generation was growing up at a time when instant communication technologies were at their peak. It started with cell phones, moved to email, instant messaging, text messaging, and finally hit a climax with social media. Now there are countless ways for young people to instantly get in contact with whomever will be helpful.

Consider this article, for example. I am a younger Millennial, and when I began writing this article I was at a loss for adjectives that would describe the “dependent/reliant” quality. Instead of turning to a Thesaurus, my initial instinct was to ask my network on Facebook. I had immediate response, varying opinions, and some even began voting on which words they liked best.


This is how Millennials operate, and it facilitates conversation amongst broader networks.

Millennials are technology gurus.

Milleninals know all of the ins and outs of technology. Again, having grown up at a time when the internet, mobiles, software, and social media were emerging to peaking, young people have gained strong technology and innovation skills. The Pew Research Center points out that 24% of Millennials list technology as a defining factor of their generation compared to 12% in Generation X (born 1965 – 1980).

So what do you get when you mix an idealistic technology guru that is good at collaborating and working with others and wants to make the world a better place? Sounds to me like you have yourself a perfect addition to the ICT4D workforce.

Many organizations have already recognized the potential of Millennials in this field and have come up with creative ways to incorporate them:

  1. Ashoka’s Youth Venture program gives young people the opportunity to understand their potential as social citizens by promoting and investing in their social ventures within society.
  2. Microsoft’s Imagine Cup Competition encourages students from across the globe to submit ideas for how technology can change people’s lives.
  3. The United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is accepting competition submissions from young innovators in digital fields at this very moment.

There are countless other ways that young people are being incorporated into the movement of technology for social change. With each year, companies and organizations are more astounded by the work that these young people can produce and the impact that they can have. While it may be frustrating to have to coddle these young innovators with praise, it will be well worth it for the results that they are capable of producing and the passion they are willing to put forth.

You can access the Pew Research Center’s full report on Millennial Research at http://pewresearch.org/millennials/.


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I am an undergraduate student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute studying Information Technology and Science, Technology, and Society. The focus of my studies is on International Development. I have a particular interest in incorporating ICTs in primary education in Sub-Saharan Africa.
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One Comment to “Young People: the Future of ICT4D?”

  1. Agu says:

    Yes, you are correct, especially if they are not in an environment that is full of corruption.