Focusing on the Ohangwena Region in Namibia, this dissertation examined the attitudes, perceptions, feelings and experiences of youths and political leaders towards the use of mobile phones as a tool for participation and engagement in regional and local politics. Data were collected through participant observations obtained from youth forum meetings; through 65 semi-structured interviews carried out with selected participants (45 male and 20 female) from regional youth and constituency forums; through another six semi-structured interviews conducted with the regional councillors (regional politicians); through a content analysis of seven Facebook pages and two WhatsApp groups; and through two focus group discussions with the regional youth forum executive members in the Ohangwena region.
The findings show that poor network connectivity and poor radio frequencies in some of the constituencies, a high rate of unemployment among the youths in the region, unfriendly staff members at constituencies’ offices, and difficulties in accessing or talking to political representatives in the region were the main factors that motivated the youths in my study to use their mobile phones to discuss issues, including political and civic ones, that deeply affected their lives. The results further highlight that youths generally prefer online platforms to real-life, physical situations of political participation and engagement – meeting spaces that are currently used by their political representatives.
According to the results of this research, although public radio remains popular, private and community radio stations have overtaken public ones, thanks to political news and programmes on mobiles. For rural and unemployed youths, the main factors that inhibit the use of mobile phones for catching radio programmes are access, availability, signals, and radio frequencies. Despite these obstacles, mobile media emerged as a preferred virtual platform for online political activity among the youth – not just in connection with the radio, but in general. Youths are less engaged in civic and political activities that unfold offline, in the physical world, because they view them as the predilect terrain of older generations. They are instead much more willing to be engaged online. Lastly, the findings show that both youths and political leaders use social media for digital skilling and literacy; for leisure and entertainment as well as for engagement (and sometimes these goals and activities merge into one); for interaction with an affective public; and for the promotion of ideals, beliefs, and models, including political ones related to direct and indirect digital democracy.

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M.S.S.E. Janssen (Susanne) , P.A. Arora (Payal)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
ERMeCC, Erasmus Research Centre for Media, Communication and Culture, Rotterdam

Shihomeka, S. (2019, December 5). Citizen Engagement : Politics and Digital Media in Namibia. Retrieved from