News & Events

Celebrating Youth Month: Youth and the digital economy

Apart from providing global connectivity, the digital space, specifically social media, has seen many youth launch and run their businesses online – and Unisa’s students and alumni excel in this space.  To celebrate Youth Month, once every week in June, myUnisa will publish an informative and inspiring article on youth, the use of technology and the participation of youth in the digital economy. To open this series, this week we lead with the subject of Youth and the digital economy.

The rise of digital entrepreneurship

The active engagement of youth in social media has seen a rise in online entrepreneurship to go above the dual challenges of poverty and unemployment. While our democratic government and the private sector are endeavouring to reduce poverty and inequality in the country, the process has not really come close to addressing the inequality that many youth still face today. Part of the reason is possibly that many young people are excluded from economic participation.

This exclusion is even more pronounced among marginalised groups of youth such as people with disabilities, young people in rural areas and, even more so, young women in rural areas. While the pace to redress this societal imbalance is rather slow, technological innovations are rapidly changing the world order in every way of our existence. Digital advances have greatly increased economic activities in every society and the manner in which people live their daily lives. Youth are particularly well positioned to enjoy the benefits of these developments given their familiarity with digital platforms as well as their openness to explore developing technologies and platforms.

Digital platforms are providing opportunities for youth empowerment

Earning income through social media

The number of young people engaging in TikTok, for example, where so many young people who have built a large following now enjoy the platform for leisure, play and business opportunities, is rising in an unbelievable manner. The same applies to many other young people who are fulltime YouTubers and influencers on Instagram and Twitter. While they use these social media platforms for leisure, many brands and organisations partner with them to promote products and brands. As more brands collaborate with social media influencers, it is possible that within a few years, many organisations’ advertising spend will no longer go to traditional television channels, radio stations or newspapers, but rather to influencers on social media.

Research shows that consumers view marketing or advertising via influencers is one of the most effective methods for driving sales. Millennials in particular are also said to prefer endorsements from social media influencers they trust and follow instead of traditional media platforms.  Social media has therefore created many economic opportunities for young people. After creating content that meets a certain threshold on platforms such as YouTube, any user becomes eligible to apply for monetisation. This enables advertisements to play throughout the users’ videos, which in turn earns the user or content creator an income. The great thing about all these platforms is that participation and possible economic gain can take place through a smart phone, from anywhere in the world.

Youth empowerment

Digital platforms provide an opportunity for youth empowerment on many levels. From building an influencer career from your phone in the comfort of your home to starting, promoting and running your business online, there has never been a better time for the economic emancipation of young people than now. Unisa youth can count themselves lucky to study through an open, distance and eLearning system whereby they have and added flexibility to manage their school time through self-paced learning. Not many students at residential universities are able to take some time off from their day-to-day lectures to commit time for self-empowerment opportunities like running and promoting their businesses online.

Through its academic offerings, Unisa serves to inspire innovative students, some of whom will be sharing their digital entrepreneurship stories in the coming weeks as part of this series. Be sure to read next week’s informative and inspiring story on myUnisa.

Share your digital entrepreneurship story with myUnisa: Click here for details


*By Tshimangadzo Mphaphuli, Senior Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement.










Publish date: 2021/06/04