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Youth in Laos now have a new channel to communicate, interact, share information and express themselves. As part of the activities prepared for World Population Day on July 11th, the UNFPA Lao PDR country office launched its Facebook fan page.

Strolling through Vientiane, or any other city in Laos, it is very common to see young people everywhere almost permanently connected to the internet on their smartphones, laptops and tablets.

With more about two thirds of the population under 24 years old, a steady increase in the use of communication technologies in the last few years and relatively accessible charges for connectivity, Laos offers a very good environment to explore the advantages of social media to reach young people.

As part of its communication efforts, UNFPA Laos decided to increase our presence in social media through the creation of a Facebook page. With a special focus on youth issues, the new Facebook page is expected to become a new communication channel to establish a direct dialogue with the youth, listen to their voices, exchange points of view and take actions together.

Youth in Savannakhet Province (Southern Laos) during an event producing and sharing content for social media

And the time could not be more appropriate. The latest figures from Facebook indicate that at least a quarter of a million people in Laos use social networks, accounting for around 4% of the total population. Critically, the number of Facebook users in Laos has jumped 64% in the past 6 months, with approximately 581 Laotians signing up to the network every day - that's a new user every 2½ minutes. The number of mobile subscribers in the country has also shown impressive growth with well over 1.5 million new mobile subscriptions.

The initiative is part of the Office Communications Plan, which is in line with UNFPA's Global Communication Strategy and UNFPA's Social Media Guidelines. The idea has been discussed with and supported by the Asia Pacific Regional Office, Social Media specialist and with communication focal points from other CO's around the world who have already implemented similar activities.

The Facebook page will be linked to the UNFPA Lao and global websites and will mix Lao and English languages to engage different audiences. Some postings will be written in Lao transliteration which is very popular among young Facebook users in the country. The page will be a resource to share and disseminate UNFPA Lao PDR activities, stories and messages as well as job and training opportunities to different audiences with a particular focus on youth.

The launching activity featured the hip hop dance crew Hoppin, including the renowned Lao dancer "Kaka" who prepared a special show to invite the youth to join the page and stay connected to UNFPA.

"Boys and girls are part of the solution. But this is not limited to the youth. Policy and decision makers, government and other development partners are also welcome to be part of the conversation" said Dr Esther Muia, UNFPA Representative, who invited the audience to click--- like ----and keep connected with UNFPA through Facebook.