Book Review: Young World Rising - How Youth, Technology and Entrepreneurship are Changing the World from the Bottom Up.
Salkowitz, R. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons Inc. 2010. 206pp. $29.95. ISBN 978-0-470-41780-5
Throughout the globe, advancements in technology have led to an overwhelming growth in connectivity and interdependence among economic and social systems. Companies from India have become reliant on clients in the Silicon Valley, just as the Internet moguls of California have become reliant on software programmers from Africa and Latin America. This connectivity is reshaping development strategies, changing the way business is done in the 21st Century, adding more importance to communication innovation, and redesigning cultures across the world. Access to Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) now provides an opportunity for political, social and economic empowerment for those who otherwise may go unheard in both global and local realms. Those previously rendered voiceless now have a chance to create sustainable, resilient livelihoods and to be part of political and social change with the stroke of a keyboard.
In Young World Rising: How Youth, Technology and Entrepreneurship are Changing the World from the Bottom Up, author Rob Salkowitz analyzes and highlights several case studies that shed light on how a nexus of youth, technology and entrepreneurship are changing development processes throughout the globe. He primarily focuses on the economic and social impacts of several successful organizations in his investigation and analysis. The book gives no shortage of praise for these organizations as being triumphant stories for what the reader may understand as Youth Technological Entrepreneurships (YTE). Salkowitz contextualizes the practicality of YTE in development and illuminates how this sector will come to be an essential part of the ever-changing social and economic landscape of the 21st Century, a contribution that should not go unnoticed. Furthermore, Salkowitz should be commended for highlighting how YTE, through the process of bringing youth from developing nations to global markets, is an innovative move towards socioeconomic development.
Although attention should be drawn to its success, the book does contain the following weaknesses. First, the author essentially proclaims YTE as being a development panacea for a set of complex issues, and this theme is, furthermore, overly repetitive in the book. Secondly, Salkowitz's ambiguous use of the term Young World is at times convoluted due to the variety of contexts it is used in, as well because it is defined so closely with 'NetGen' and 'Millennials'. Thirdly, the author does not give a comprehensive enough analysis for many arguments and statements that he makes. Finally, the author may have been more successful had he shown more how each facet - youth, ICT and entrepreneurship - may all lend their hands in development processes and less how YTE as a sector would change the Young World.
There is little doubt that YTE provides an opportunity to address issues such as unemployment, youth and gender marginalization, community revitalization education and poverty. The author clearly distinguishes this by analyzing several successful organizations in Africa, India, Europe, the United States and Latin America. In doing so, he makes the connection of how youth identity is changing such concepts as: corporate culture, organizational models, education and networking. Moreover, by highlighting the organizations Salkowitz does, the author illuminates how businesses can be driven both by profit and by social change in this day and age. Furthermore, he proves through exemplifying these cases that YTE helps people and organizations overcome great adversity socially, economically and politically.
The downfall of Salkowitz's examples is that each organization, more or less, exists in a virtual world, offering services such as computer programming and software development. Given this, each requires a great technical knowledge base and educational background to gain employment in the field. Arguably, the author downplays the processes of becoming a skilled worker or entrepreneur in this sector. He does give credit to organizations for providing the foundations of knowledge, however, given the complex situations that act as barriers to education in such developing regions, there is much missing from the story. By using these examples, he also makes statements that are based on the chances that a very marginal number of youth have had the opportunity to act upon. In conclusion, it may be too romantic to simply focus on the success of these NetGen founders and employees.
To classify and categorize the main group of this book, Salkowitz uses a mixture of terms including: Young World, youth, Net-generation (NetGen) and Millennial's. By linking these terms so closely together, the author confuses what they mean as they are constantly taken in different interpretations. For instance, Salkowitz uses the terms NetGen and Millennial to categorize demographics as a "worldwide cohort born after 1980" with distinct norms and behaviors (9). Furthermore, Young World is also used as a classification for a demographic group, but it also stands to hold a geo-political meaning, which ultimately confuses what he is attempting to say. The issue here could be solved with an initial understanding of how Salkowitz understands such important labels as Young World and Old World in definitional terms. Arguably, setting borders for these definitions could solve this problem, and, moreover, by extending this to other labels holding great weight in the book, the author would be setting the definitional parameters needed to understand each argument presented.
Another issue faced is found in the details. In particular, many statements the author makes are as if he gave little analysis on what the broader context might be. For example, Salkowitz (32) argues that the NetGen in many developing nations spend far more time on the Internet as NetGen from developed countries; it is used as a compelling argument as to why this group may be more apt to be successful in YTE. However, upon further inspection it must be considered that the difference in time spent online may ultimately factor down to the technological differences that exist between these countries. In this, youth in North America may very well be doing the same amount of work on the Internet that youth in the developing nations are, however, in less time due to faster Internet connections and faster technologies (mobiles, computers and even iPods). In another example, the author notes, "Successful businesses can begin with nothing more than an idea and an Internet connection" (40). This comment, however, takes much away from the conceptual framework of his book. In the following pages, it is understood that for the Young World to be successful in business, there is a particular model to follow; the author, in fact, provides the reader with a full chapter on this titled "Engaging the Young World: Strategies for Success."
As stated above, the author may have been more successful had he shown less how YTE as a sector would change the Young World and emphasized more how youth, ICT and entrepreneurship could each influence development and aid. Arguably, development strategies must have an approach just as diverse and complex as the issues they are attempting to change; therefore, one must not provide unequivocal solutions. Moreover, had Salkowitz provided more discussion on how, in their minimal states, the themes provided might better impact development, a more comprehensive understanding of the relationship between each and development would be gained.
Lastly, Salkowitz does not mention, nor highlight any failed examples of YTE. This may suggest a bias in his argument. To provide a short list of successful models is doing the relationship of YTE and development little justice. He provides a minimal dialogue around the barriers faced to succeeding as an entrepreneur and could, moreover, use failures to focus and accentuate the numerous guidelines that he sets out in his book.
In conclusion, A Young World Rising should not go unread by those interested in ICT based social enterprise development, or those investigating the practicality of technology use for youth in developing contexts. Salkowitz has established a piece of literature that illuminates a very important piece to the development puzzle in the 21st century. He clearly shows how technology in developing nations can influence socioeconomic growth and catalyze entire workplace cultural shifts both in the developing and developed worlds. His shortcomings have been highlighted not as stark mistakes, but as suggestions for future work in the hopes of gaining a more comprehensive understanding of how each facet of his argument may work within a multitude of development strategies.