February 28, 2020

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This article was originally published September 13, 2019.

Access to the internet is prized across the world. Payal Arora, author of The Next Billion Users: Digital Life Beyond The West, says that young people, in non-Western countries, will make up the bulk of the next billion online users. Western aid groups often make assumptions about what these new users want from technology, but they are frequently mistaken. How exactly are young people in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and South America using technology? One example: in countries where dating is discouraged and arranged marriages are common, teenagers are using the internet to create online dating lives. Arora argues that having technology also allows young people to create new businesses that free them up from unstable agricultural work.

Three Takeaways:

  • In Saudi Arabia, young women use Twitter and Facebook to chat with strangers, as a replacement for dating apps. Arora said that these women will even send unveiled photographs of themselves online to men, trusting they will have a serious relationship based on their virtual conversations.
  • But tradition isn’t getting swept aside by the internet; in fact, in some respects, the internet is strengthening it. Arora said that mobile phones can actually reinforce traditions, for example, by setting reminders about when to pray. Imams have taken Twitter by storm, and have garnered large followings online, catering to a younger populace.
  • As tech companies continue to expand, they will have to change to fit the unique needs and wishes of different countries with various politics and cultural norms. Facebook, for example, is trying to garner more users in other countries by embracing and promoting increased privacy policies.

More Reading:

Middle East, Africa, Payal Arora, Culture, Asia, The West, Internet, South America

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