17. YWorld Kultur Kums of Age By William Bowles

June 2001

The initial success of Y-World raises a lot of interesting questions about the future and the nature of the Internet in South Africa. Firstly, the sheer numbers of people visiting Y-World in its first month even blew us away. A total of 575,000 page impressions through the month of August or about 20,000 per day) which destroys the myth that blacks in South Africa don’t have access to the Internet in economically and socially significant numbers.

Okay, so these numbers are still relatively small compared to whites online, but the potential audience is enormous and growing, which can’t be said of the white online audience which is now flattening out in growth. If an equivalent number of black South Africans were also online, it would be a staggering 8 million people. At the same time, this figure also highlights the vast gulf in access too and ownership of, online resources between blacks and whites in South Africa.

Thirdly, unlike other SA Websites that target young people, YWorlders’ clearly want to see their own culture reflected on the site rather than poor imitations of ‘hip’ techie sites found in other parts of the world or in SA. For the first time in South Africa, like our sister YFM, YWorld has created a mirror for the aspirations of young, black South Africans; how they see themselves at work and at play. I think that there is a genuine desire to see the new culture that is being created in South Africa, mirrored by the people who make it in the online environment.

Of course, in real terms the numbers are still relatively small, perhaps 40,000 or so people visit Y-World on a regular basis but this is an audience whose future is also the future of the country itself. These are the people who are not only ambitious but also optimistic about their lives and who see themselves as having a future. It is moreover, the core majority of blacks online, perhaps even the vast majority in YWorld’s target age range (17-35 or so).

Another interesting fact about the YWorld audience is that a large percentage (about 1/3rd) are at school or college., but then educational institutions are our incubators. It’s here that tomorrow’s audience is created, not only from the perspective of skills and jobs but also from the perspective of attitudes and aspirations. This is why getting education wired rapidly is such a vital component of the development process.

Another interesting aspect which we share with countries such as the US, young blacks online are less concerned about race per se than they are with connecting with others who have the same outlook on life, the same or similiar likes and dislikes. YWorlders cross the ‘racial boundaries’, indeed they travel across the planet and into diverse cultures.

And as with the station, HipHop culture is playing a significant role in defining attitudes and desires throughout not only Africa and the African Diaspora but among urban, young people generally. Check out the Rap Activity Jam section for example. The two people behind it, Madala and Khoi both come from the townships and if one were to take one’s cue from the mass media, they were both destined to be ‘losers’. Yet nothing could be further from the truth, not only by virtue of their talents and desires but more importantly perhaps, because they refuse to be stereotyped in such a crass manner. They share and participate in, the international HipHop culture, but bring a uniquely South African expression to the mix.

Hey – obviously this only my opinion, whaddo I know – maybe I’m reading too much into the emergence of YWorld. What do YWorlders think? Let me know, what do you guys and gals think it’s all about? I’ll publish any responses I get and if you’re interested, when the Chat Rooms and Message Boards are activated, we can talk about it online as well.

 Copyright © 1987-2003 William Bowles unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved. You have the right to reproduce content from this if it is not-for-profit, non-commercial use or for ‘fair use’. For commercial reproduction, please contact the copyright owner.

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