A young girl uses a cell phone at a market in Ghana. © 2006 Joitske Hulsebosch, Courtesy of Photoshare.
People often assume that, as a woman under 30, I must be a technology expert—based on no other credential than my age. While I may tire of explaining what an app is or how to tweet, the truth is that young people are in fact the largest consumers of new technology. In the last five years, the number of mobile phone subscribers worldwide has doubled to almost six billion, of which nearly a third are under the age of 30. Growth in mobile phone use has been particularly high in low- and middle-income countries, where an estimated 80 percent of future subscribers—including millions of technologically-savvy youth—reside.
This growing population presents both opportunities and challenges for development, and underscores the need for greater investment in youth health. Given the high penetration of mobile phone use among young people, targeting them with mobile health (mHealth) interventions seems like a “no-brainer.” Yet, it has taken some time for the global health and development community to realize that young people represent interested consumers and early adopters of mHealth tools. To date, there are still only a limited number of programs that directly target youth. However, at this year’s Global mHealth Forum at the mHealth Summit, youth were front and center.