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Online platform tracks youth development challenges

Murray Leibbrandt, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Poverty and Inequality at UCT.

Murray Leibbrandt, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Poverty and Inequality at UCT.

University of Cape Town researchers at the Poverty and Inequality Initiative (PII), in partnership with OpenUp, Statistics SA and the Economies of Regions Learning Network, have developed the Youth Explorer, an interactive online tool that provides a range of information on the status and wellbeing of SA's young people.

The PII is a multi-disciplinary initiative aimed at increasing the university's contribution to tackling major development challenges facing SA.

According to PII, the online platform, launched on 16 June (Youth Day), is used to understand the needs and challenges faced by young people in different areas around SA. It provides easy access to a range of useful information on young people, from electoral wards to local municipalities and district municipalities. It presents youth-specific census data such as education, employment and health, using simple charts, maps and other interactive features.

Businesses can use this information to fine-tune their products and services to respond more effectively to the realities of young people and the contexts in which they live. The platform is also targeted at anyone working in youth development – from national and provincial governments, to civil society organisations implementing policies and programmes in communities, adds the organisation.

Emily Harris, research officer at PII, UCT, says the Youth Explorer hopes to provide information that can increase awareness of the lived realities and challenges in the majority of young South Africans' lives.

"The tool provides a strong evidence base that can begin to inform and fine-tune policies and interventions aimed to improve the life chances of young people within their specific communities. It assists in identifying areas for urgent intervention, to stimulate cross-departmental discussions around youth development at national, provincial and small area level, and improve consistency between the work of different departments in government, academia and civil society," she explains.

The youth-centred data, sourced from Statistics SA, provides information such as youth demographics of 15- to 24-year-olds and the average number of young people who face various challenges, such as poor educational outcomes, teenage pregnancy, unemployment, etc, says PII. Users type in a location, for example Buffalo City, and the Youth Explorer shows information on crucial aspects of the lives of young people in that area.

"Youth development is currently high on the national agenda," says Professor Murray Leibbrandt, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Poverty and Inequality at UCT, and director of the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit.

Later this month, the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs will launch the Local Government Youth Development Forum to examine the role of local government in youth development.

"For these and other youth development processes to be effective, a thorough understanding of the situation of the youth population at the community level is essential for the effective design, planning and roll-out of youth services," concludes Harris.

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