Digital divide is real, it’s everywhere, and again, it’s happening more in continents such as Africa.
A 2017 report by UNICEF titled ‘The state of the world’s children’, notes that nearly 9 out of 10 of the young people (aged 15–24) not using the internet live in Africa or Asia and the Pacific.
This is not pleasant, especially when the digital world is the new place to learn almost anything. People such as Sal Khan have been using video and YouTube to spread information in areas of Mathematics, Science and many others. These 9 out 10 young people miss the opportunity to access services such as these and many others.
However, not all has been lost, countries in African and around the world have been playing their part in closing the gap. For instance, Cameroon piloted a project called Connect My School, aimed at providing access to educational content and digital tools to children living in remote areas of the country. Ensuring that the issue of electricity in Africa doesn’t deter the project, internet connectivity is provided by solar-powered equipment within a 500-metre range, allowing a whole school to be connected.
There are many other initiatives taken to deal with the digital divide that excludes many young people from critical opportunities, information and skills.
Even so, the report by UNICEF adds the following;
“Despite the rapid spread of access to digital and online experiences around the world, there are still wide gaps in children’s access to digital and communications technology. Access to ICTs – and the quality of that access – has become a new dividing line. For example, children whose access is limited to a small range of local content services viewed via inferior devices with a slow connection are missing out on the full range of content and opportunities their better-connected peers enjoy. These disparities mirror and potentially exacerbate those already affecting disadvantaged children offline.”
Countries such Cameroon, Brazil, Uganda, South Africa and many others have implemented projects that seek to deal with this divide. Yet it seems like the problem only persists. Does it have anything to do with culture? Or maybe the risk of children being exposed to adult content? Whatever the cause, the digital world has become more important than 5 years ago.
With the fourth industrial revolution at hand, digital skills are a commodity. Learning something new, accessing online information have all become basic needs for prospering in this age of time.
Mduduzi Mbiza is a writer, content strategist, researcher, consultant, speaker and author of the book, ‘Human Education: The Voyage of Discovery’. He has contributed his articles on education to Daily Maverick, The South African, Voice360 and EduOne.