Understanding children’s needs: What are you doing to promote Digital Inclusion?
By Constance Ndeleko
In the 21st Century, the rapid digitizing world has fostered communications across the globe however the digital divide gap is still widening most especially with the marginalized in developing countries.
This exclusion challenges them in participating in the digital territories and accessing basic needs and services such as education and information awareness which extends social interactions. This segregation which is avoidable clearly outlines a left behind community most especially children now that online presence is becoming necessity majorly pushed in by a wind of change due to the pandemic.
Today more than 1.2 Million Kilometers of Internet cables run across the ocean’s floor, but just 20 years ago Africa was completely disconnected says, International Finance Corporation, World Bank Group
The good news, simply put, is that 40 percent of all Africans have access of some sort to the internet. On a continent in which, by and large, newspapers are expensive, telephone landlines are underdeveloped, authoritarian governments seek to manipulate the media, and most people have traditionally received news from the radio, often broadcasting in local languages, the internet provides access to a new and much bigger world. The downside, of course, is that the internet is unfiltered, with both wisdom and garbage. There are also fewer ways to verify internet stories than in other parts of the world where other forms of media are more developed. |Council Foreign Relations|
What is Digital Inclusion?
Digital Inclusion refers to the activities necessary to ensure that all individuals and communities, including the most disadvantaged, have access to and use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).
This includes 5 elements:
1) Affordable, robust broadband internet service;
2) Internet-enabled devices that meet the needs of the user;
3) Access to digital literacy training;
4) Quality technical support; and
5.) Applications and online content designed to enable and encourage self-sufficiency, participation and collaboration.
Digital Inclusion must evolve as technology advances. Digital Inclusion requires intentional strategies and investments to reduce and eliminate historical, institutional and structural barriers to access and use technology.
Did you know that 95 % of the global population lives in an area covered by at least a 2G mobile network? The rapid growth of Internet access and connectivity has paved the way for the development of a digital economy across the world. However, there are major inequalities due to lack of digital skills in both developed and developing countries.
Well, my point is everyone need access to the internet and the most vulnerable group here are children. Most children across Africa have missed up on a window of opportunity due digital divide.
UNESCO states that, “Half of the total number of learners – some 826 million students – kept out of the classroom by the COVID-19 pandemic, do not have access to a household computer and 43% (706 million) have no internet at home, at a time when digitally-based distance learning is used to ensure educational continuity in the vast majority of countries.”
“These inequalities are a real threat to learning continuity at a time of unprecedented educational disruption,” said Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education. “Addressing these gaps was the impetus for launching the Covid-19 Global Education Coalition, which brings together more than 90 public and private sector partners, to develop universal and equitable solutions, and make the digital revolution inclusive.”
Thus, there’s a clear need for a holistic approach on Children’s Digital literacy e.g. to enhance a child’s wellbeing and rights they need; Access, skills, risks and opportunities in the digital age.
If children are to participate fully in the digital age, greater efforts will be needed to ensure that they become the content creators and engaged actors that many hope for. It is particularly crucial that efforts to keep them safe from risks do not, however unintentionally, also serve to constrain their opportunities. (Byrne et al. 2016, p. 82)
Livingstone and Third (2017) note that such an active role in the discourse of children’s rights in the digital world is connected to the potential of children’s rights to reshape the broader debate on digital rights.
Even though children are seemingly adept at using digital tools, this does not mean that they are digitally literate children use the internet at an earlier age and more frequently than ever but still need support and guidance for developing their critical evaluation skills and collaborative competencies (Kanchev et al, 2016). Skill inequalities exist between children as much between adults, debunking the ‘digital native’ idea. While there is little data available outside Europe, “available data suggest that digital inequalities are not a generational thing and will persist into the future” (ITU 2018b)
Images courtesy and Data sourced to enhance this article