Youth, Poverty, and Use of ICTs: Constructing New Democratic Public Spheres

Violence toward youth in Brazil is among the highest in the world. However, youth in poor and violent neighbourhoods of Rio de Janeiro are using new technologies to make their voices heard.

Brazil has achieved remarkable economic success, surpassing Britain this year as the world's sixth largest economy. However, the country has the fourth highest rate of youth violence in the world, and murder remains the leading cause of death among young people. Youth in the favelas (poor neighbourhoods) of Rio de Janeiro are particularly vulnerable to violence. There, violence both results from, and perpetuates, a wide gap between rich and poor. The connection between violence and the drug trade, exacerbated by media reports and government policy, has pushed these youth even further to the margins of public discourse.

Despite these barriers, youth in these violent contexts are finding new ways to participate in democracy and strengthen their resilience to violence through information and communications technology (ICT). ICTs can include such things as social networks (e.g., Facebook and Twitter), social media networks (e.g., Idealist and TakingITGlobal), and digital media platforms (e.g., YouTube, MySpace and the Youth Media Exchange Project),

The project will document how vulnerable youth in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro are experimenting with new forms of political participation and activism using ICTs. A team of local researchers will develop case studies to examine the role that these new technologies are playing in defining (and re-defining), enhancing and transforming the way youth participate in politics and social activism in Rio's marginalized neighbourhoods.

The project will examine the kinds of ICTs youth are using and how they are using them to have a political voice. The project will also look at how politicians are responding to this "digital activism" to determine not only their attitudes, but also how successful ICTs are as a political tool. The research will specifically look at the gender dimensions of digital activism and document any differences between young men and women that may be affecting or provoked by this mode of political participation.

The case studies produced by the project will help to expand understanding about the importance of ICTs as a political medium for marginalized populations, particularly youth. The project aims to increase awareness among youth about how they can mobilize to exercise their rights and improve the quality of their lives. It also aims to influence the way government authorities and policy-makers view and interact with disadvantaged youth.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

End Date

Thursday, July 18, 2013


18 months

IDRC Officer

Ceballos, Florencio

Total funding

CA$ 117,300


Brazil, South America, North and Central America


Governance and Justice

Project Leader

Itamar Silva (replacing Patricia Lanes, Amend. 1)


Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analyses

Institution Country


Institution Website