Growing up, a family friend will run all the way from her house with a pot of soup hoping to find out something we had at home that could complement the soup she had. On days when my twin sister and I were also missing a part of a meal, she will also return the good deed. Though the distance was not a short one, the thoughts of having a complete meal urged us on.
This neighbor of mine currently studies in Ukraine and none of us has or late had any thoughts of running all the way from Ghana to Ukraine – that will be a new record for the longest run.
The world is currently undergoing a difficult transformation with a rapid migration of almost all manual process to digital and the effect is a massive one both in advantages and disadvantages.
Just like distance resulted in the gap with my friend who now studies many miles away, several reasons have also been identified to be the ones causing the widening digital gap.
Some of the common ones are:
- Access – the ability to actually go online and connect to the Internet (largely relying on the constant supply of electricity)
- Skills – to be able to use the Internet and understand it.
- Motivation – knowing the reasons why using the Internet is a good thing – seeing the Internet as a tool and not just a space.
- Trust – the risk of crime, knowingly or unknowingly or not knowing where to start online.
Closely related to these reasons are the issues of Gender-based violence and the language barrier online.
As the number of Netizens (Internet users or Internet citizens) rapidly increase, we all should be able to have access to, and skills to use Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) while being safe online and hence reaping the numerous benefits that comes with using the Internet as a tool.
Again with the current trend in most places being the use of IT tools and online platforms to gradually replace the manual processes which has been in use for a long time, the way forward will be to act responsibly and herald initiatives that:
- Teach the relevant skills that will help people easily use the Internet not only for leisure but to benefit fully from them. Some of these initiatives will be to volunteer to physically teach groups to first know the environment they will be working in by laying emphasis on what the Internet is and Internet Governance. Again, to be able to accommodate others who are far from our geographical location, a couple of us will herald the creation of online schools with certificates of completions awarded to motivate more people to come on board. Through this program, many people can be mentored to eventually choose careers in IT.
- Encourage and motivate the use of the Internet through periodic online challenges that encourage rigorous participation.
- Advocate for the bridge of the digital divide that stems from the unavailability of devices through online campaigns and applying for grants to implement fully resourced mobile labs that will travel places to bring digital skills to the grass root and the marginalized especially those who do not know about these tools or basically cannot afford them. In addition, simple educational resources mainly graphics with captions in local languages will also be produced to help reach people who do not read or speak the English language. In future, I would lead campaigns to have an all-inclusive digital front where all can utilize and benefit greatly from applications regardless of one’s physical disability.
- Provide community network services that could either run on quota basis or properly implemented to serve wide areas also with the ability to withstand adverse weather conditions.
- Discourage the gender-based violence online by reporting such cases to administrators of the platform and educating persons on when to sense abuse and to report accordingly.
- Encourage staying safe online by teaching basic security hacks such the avoidance of posting very private information online, connecting with only people who they can verify online, updating anti viruses and using safe and strong passwords.