Youth, Mobile Phones & Social Change

Project Partner:



The fastest spreading communications technology the world has seen yet, mobile phones are rapidly changing the face of youth activism globally.  TakingITMobile is a community-based research study conducted in partnership with the social network TakingITGlobal that examines how youth leaders across the globe use mobile communications to create social change within their local communities and internationally. Survey participants (n = 565) paint a picture of the diversity of mobile youth activism around the world.


Using Electronic Participatory Action Research (e-PAR), youth participants were encouraged to take the reigns as researchers through the online TakingITMobile Working Group, which comprised of 39 youth representing 20 different countries. A mixed-methods survey on mobile youth activism was collaboratively developed and deployed online in 10 languages. Cross-tab analysis examined if youth used their mobile phones for activism according to gender, age and smart phone status.  ANOVAs were conducted examining if GDP per capita had an effect on monthly average mobile phone cost, number of minutes used, number of text messages and data used. Qualitative comments were analyzed according to mobile phone features.


  • Qualitative data showed that youth reported using their mobile phones to generate Citizen Media to share their message globally, mobilize protests, fundraise, educate their peers and spread solidarity.
  • Top issues reported were: Environment (39%); Human Rights (36%); Poverty (28%); Health (24%); Peace (23.8%); HIV/AIDS (22.4%) & Violence (11.6%).
  • The most popular features used daily were: Voice Calls (75%); Text Messages (46%); Web Browsing (38%); Social Media (27%); News (26%) and Photography (22%).
  • Youth who own smart phones are more likely to use their phones for activism (81%) than youth who don’t (71%) (F(1) = 5.43, p = .02)
  • Females are much less likely (70%) to use their phones for activism than males (84%) (F(1) = 11.52, p < .01).
  • Youth ages 25-29 show higher levels of activism (84%) than youth in their teens (67%), early 20s (75%) and 30s (75%) (F(3) = 6.47, p = .058).
  • GDP per capita was an influencing factor on both monthly costs (F (3) = 10.0005, p <  .01), monthly average number of minutes used (F(3) = 7.16, p <  .01), number of SMS used (F(3) = 15.16, p <  .01) and internet data used (F(3) = 4.89, p <  .01).
  • TakingITGlobal members reported that cost of services (32%) cost of mobile phones (10%) as well as network coverage (9%) were the biggest barriers to accessing mobile phones.


Mobile technology has become a medium for youth empowerment, activism and a catalyst for social change.  Despite barriers to accessing mobile phones, levels of mobile activism were highly reported across the globe. Opportunities exist to minimize barriers to access and maximize positive impact. It is imperative that government and policy makers recognize the potential of mobile technology to empower youth to create social change in their communities and work to further bridge the digital divide.