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How to use Digital resources for bridging the Digital gap in rural communities and helping build a more inclusive Digital Society?
As societies become more connected and digitalized, evidence shows that differences in infrastructure quality are growing between urban and rural areas. The constant catch-up of infrastructure and existing social exclusion factors create a double jeopardy in rural areas. Furthermore, as digital technologies are increasingly embedded into economic, political, social, and personal lives, the disadvantages that occur from disconnection manifest differently depending on the social context of an individual, organization or community. There is thus a need to improve our understanding of specific contexts of digitally excluded groups and develop targeted policies and programs.
Rural communities are often disadvantaged in the reach to connectivity, which is even more evident in Developing Countries. Being technology and connection human expansion, we now need them to do even the most basic activities.
Only 43% of Africa, around 590 million people, has a stable internet access. To give you the right proportion, Nigeria, for instance, has a population of 21.4 million only. 73% of people are in a critical position for broadband connection, and mobile technologies. Such difficulties in turn lead to a critical lack of opportunity in different fields such as education, commerce, health, and agriculture.
The need for Digital cooperation in the African continent was brought upon by Tony Ojobo, President of African ICT Foundation on December 3 2021, during the 21st edition of the Infopoverty World Conference, an annual UN Flagship Event organized by OCCAM - the Observatory on Digital Communication affiliated with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. Due the pandemic, this year the Conference has been taken place online and worldwide live-streamed by UN Webcast.
According to the World Economic Report, dated March 2021, the 3G internet coverage is at best 75% of the African continent while 4G internet coverage is still at 49%. In addition, there is a gender gap in the access to internet accounting for 60%. With respect to education, 89% of primary school children in Sub Saharan Africa do not have a computer at home while 42% have no internet access at all.
“From my experience, I can say that the African policy around Digital transition should take into account these four principles: Affordability, availability, accessibility, adoption”
Since 1996, OCCAM has been advocating for quality and affordability of internet connection and e-services in developing countries. On such merits, the first project was implemented in 1999 with the creation of the ICT Village in Honduras where broadband connectivity, an internet point center, services such as e-learning and telemedicine were guaranteed.
Overall, bottom-up experiences, shared in the virtual world, necessarily entail a strong effect able to influence the behavior of communities. Is a cooperation for Connectivity needed? How to maintain principle of inclusiveness and fairness?
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