International Youth Day 2023: How are younger generations shaping the new digital era?

August 11, 2023

The 2022 edition of the Network Readiness Index explored the challenges and opportunities facing younger generations in the digital era. Today, the world is home to 1.8 billion young people aged 15 to 24 years – the largest generation of youth in history. This International Youth Day, we are unpacking some of the key ways that young people are shaping the world.

Changing the entrepreneurial landscape 

In today’s rapidly evolving digital world, Millennials and Gen Z are embracing autonomous lifestyles and striving to create a lasting impact. Entrepreneurship has emerged as a powerful pathway to fulfill these aspirations. Earlier this year we invited prominent young entrepreneurs, investors, and startup ecosystem leaders to share their experiences navigating the entrepreneurial landscape, such as leveraging technology, acquiring relevant education and skills, and building a compelling personal brand. 

Connecting their communities 

Nearly 90% of the world’s youth live in developing countries, making it critical to understand the digital contexts experienced by their segment of the population. Despite persistent challenges, the relative connectivity gap between LDCs and the world average is much smaller for younger generations than that for the whole population. As of 2022, almost half of young people (ages 15 to 24) in LDCs were online, nearly twice as many as in 2019. This greater uptake among youth means that the workforce will become more connected and technology-savvy as the young generation joins its ranks. This in turn could improve the development prospects of LDCs. Learn more about initiatives and recommendations seeking to close the digital divide and improve outcomes for youth in the digital age. 

Taking initiative and making social impact

Growing up in rural Kenya, Nelly Cheboi experienced the digital divide firsthand. From her experience, she founded TechLit Africa, a non-profit organization working to bridge the digital divide and disrupt the cycle of poverty through digital skilling. The organization upcycles computers, establishes computer labs, and teaches computer classes in primary schools in rural Kenya, all with the goal of integrating youth into the digital economy and creating opportunities for them to earn a living online. In 2022, Nelly was recognized as CNN Hero of the Year and Forbes 30 Under 30 lists for her work. In our conversation with her, we discussed the realities of ICT access in rural regions and the importance of community-driven initiatives and sustainability.

Prioritizing privacy

Digital natives are not as careless with their personal data as many think – if anything, they care more about their digital personas than previous generations, and desire more agency over how they are viewed online. To do so, they use their comfortability with digital technologies to employ privacy controls over their personal data. In fact, over 60% of teens apply privacy filters to control how their social media uses their data. Gen Z will soon dominate the customer base, making it critical for companies to realize the demand for privacy-friendly design and features on social networking sites and e-commerce platforms. 

Valuing flexible, autonomous, and impact-driven work

“We have a lot to learn from this generation. Not only do digital natives have a constant thirst for how they can innovate creatively, but they also highly value meaningful, transformative work that is purpose-led.” To fully leverage the potential of new generations to create value, public and private organizations should encourage the involvement of young people in conversations that govern how they work and communicate. Mona Abou Hana, PwC Middle East Chief People Officer, shared some strategies for empowering the workforce of the future with the right skills, tools and technology for taking on the complex problems facing our world

Collaborating in new ways

Software development plays an important role in the digital transformation taking place around the world, especially when it comes to the activity of digital natives, who are inclined to build software in the open, online. This is why we teamed up with GitHub to develop an indicator measuring global software development trends. 

Revolutionizing the capabilities of social media platforms

Digital natives’ unique world-view allows them to think about new ways in which technology can be used. One way to look at this phenomenon is through the lens of a growing online community of “digital detectives”. As youth represent the most digitally networked group and are skilled in handling and sharing information, their engagement in true crime can be a powerful asset, helping bring forth new evidence, keeping stories trending, and giving a voice to traditionally silenced or marginalized communities. Read more about ​​the benefits and risks of youth social media skills, and how they can be applied in criminal investigations.

While many questions related to the role of digital natives in shaping our collective future surpass the realm of direct measurability, we believe that the right metrics can help provide adequate policy interventions that steer the process in the right direction and maximize benefits not just for younger generations, but also for the economy and society at large. To learn more, visit