Digicel, UNICEF give voice to Jamaica’s young people

A partnership between Digicel and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is setting the stage for a new era in youth empowerment and development in Jamaica.

Using the power of its high-speed LTE mobile network, Digicel will provide zero-rated SMS messaging access to UNICEF’s U-Report social messaging platform — a powerful, global digital portal that encourages open expression among young people between the ages of 13 and 29.

Through the partnership, individuals can sign up for U-Report for free via text messaging on the Digicel network.

U-Report, which UNICEF operates in 95 countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, empowers adolescents and youth to have a voice about issues impacting their lives, while ensuring anonymity and confidentiality. By harnessing the power of technology, Digicel and UNICEF are dedicated to positively impacting the lives of Jamaican youth through this transformative partnership.

As a U-Report participant, young people can actively engage in vital issues of national importance and become advocates for change. Their feedback will be shared with government officials, key decision-makers, civil society organisations, and the public to help influence policies, programmes, and laws that impact children and youth.

This collaboration between Digicel and UNICEF is a significant moment in efforts to engage a wider cross section of youth and enhance their lives, allowing youth, including those without access to mobile internet, to use U-Report and its services — such as the U-Matter mental health chat line with the Ministry of Health and Wellness — to send and receive SMS messages with the service free of charge.

Digicel’s Chief Marketing Officer Tari Lovell emphasised the importance of connecting with young people and providing them with diverse opportunities. “Together, we are unleashing the influential power of youth voices to effect positive change,” Lovell declared. For him, an enthusiastic supporter of discussion-type platforms, digital technology is playing a huge role in popularising youth advocacy. Lovell added: “Our young people will gain exposure and share ideas on various topics that can prepare them for leadership while they gain valuable experience and skills.”

He described the Digicel/UNICEF partnership as a vital step toward improving opportunities for young people across Jamaica by giving them a voice that can influence social change through the creation of a safe space that empowers and listens to them.

UNICEF’s Jamaican Representative Olga Isaza expressed gratitude for Digicel’s support and commitment, while emphasising the significance of these in bringing about much-needed change in the lives of the future generation. “Together we will accelerate the change that is so desperately needed in the lives of our young generation through this powerful collaboration.”

Explaining the global impact of U-Report, Isaza pointed out that it is working to change the lives of young people around the world. “Over 30 million young people have signed up and many of them are already making a positive impact on not only their peers but also on policies and the way decisions are taken on their behalf,” she said.

Digicel also announced its partnership with FunDoo, the upcoming WhatsApp-based digital life coach, also to be provided by U-Report, which is being co-designed by Jamaican youth who have previously recommended to UNICEF that technology and life skills be more integrated within the education sector. As part of this collaboration, Digicel will provide users with mobile credit incentives and explore pathways to employment, education, and training opportunities, including internships and networking opportunities.