TrueheartMarried couple Amy and Scott Malin allow people to transform the lives of the poor with just one click. In late June 2021, the couple developed a search engine called Trueheart, enabling individuals to donate merely by surfing on the website. About 80% of the search engine’s proceeds go toward six major nonprofit companies including Smile Train, Action Against Hunger, Global Green, 4 Paws for Ability, PFLAG National and the Variety Boys & Girls Club.

Why Amy and Scott Malin Created Trueheart

Amy and Scott Malin made it possible to search and donate with Trueheart so that anyone can make an impact worldwide. Because the couple values honesty, they have made a website where people can view what the donations go toward. Inspirational video and image content show the benefits of the proceeds. As a result, this encourages people to click and donate as the donors view the significant influence of others collaborating to change the world.

Also, according to Authority Magazine, Scott stated that he and his wife support utilizing technology in a positive way where people who care about improving society can join forces. In addition, Amy noted that helping the less fortunate is important to their family. For example, the couple helps people by aiding low-income households, donating food to the homeless, cheering up sick children and children without their parents over the holidays and more.

Trueheart’s Celebration

Look To The Stars also reported that, in celebration of Trueheart’s introduction, “Beverly Hills 90210” star and “The Masked Dancer” panel member Brian Austin Green and “Dancing With The Stars” expert performer Sharna Burgess will collaborate to present the #Search4Smiles promotion. This promotion will assist Smile Train in treating babies and kids with cleft lips globally. If this condition does not receive treatment, it can cause challenges with food consumption, breathing, listening and talking. Smile Train has helped to treat over 1.5 million kids with cleft lips worldwide for 21 years. Thus, since people can search and donate free with Trueheart, people can significantly reduce this condition’s global impact.

More About Smile Train

According to the Smile Train website, the company trains and funds healthcare practitioners in more than 70 nations worldwide to help cleft patients at no cost. Babies and children that have clefts require more than merely surgical procedures. It may also be crucial for them to receive help with eating, chewing and speaking. Smile Train provides services for children in low-income areas. For instance, the company’s surgeons can finish a surgery in less than an hour. In addition, dentists are available to provide tooth care for children with cleft lips. Smile Train also supports kids with cleft lips emotionally as the children tend to suffer from scarring, speech impediments, low self-confidence and more. Other celebrities that support the organization include Kylie Jenner, Karrueche Tran, Quincy Brown and Howie Mandel.

Helping People Made Simple

According to Amy Malin, people often think that if they do not have fame or money to spare, that they will not have a significant impact. With support from celebrities, she and Scott Malin have made it possible for anyone to search and donate free with Trueheart. As a final point, Amy stated that many people wish to help change the world and now people can, even in a small way, by clicking and searching on Trueheart via cellular devices, tablets and computers.

– Jannique McDonald
Photo: Flickr

Cell ServiceWhen a hurricane rips through a Caribbean island, news sites often report the destruction of buildings, damaged roads and lost lives. However, one of the most important things that people lose in a natural disaster is often invisible to a spectator’s eye: cellular connectivity. Cell service is crucial to life in the Caribbean islands, just as it is around the world. When Caribbean countries lose cell service, rescue operations, the economy and society itself grind to a halt. That is why many people have been developing creative ways to ensure cellular access during natural disasters.

In 2017, Hurricane Maria destroyed 75% of Puerto Rico’s cell towers, which deprived 91% of Puerto Ricans of their cell service. The most immediate effect of losing service was the inability of rescue teams to find or assist survivors. For weeks after the disaster, large parts of the island remained unable to communicate with the rest of the world to tell people about the island’s condition.

Rebuilding After Hurricane Maria

The lack of internet and cellular service proved a chronic problem for Puerto Rico as it attempted to rebuild after Hurricane Maria. Businesses were unable to advertise or sell their goods, and people could not coordinate rebuilding projects.

Even a year after Hurricane Maria, 10% of small businesses had not reopened and 40% of the population had lost their jobs or were earning less than they had before the hurricane. Estimates of the total financial cost of the hurricane range from $43 billion to $159 billion.

Cell Service and Subscriptions

In Puerto Rico, the internet is so important that the poorest 40% of the population pay about one-fifth of their income for broadband service. The rest of the Caribbean is equally dependent on connectivity. In most Caribbean countries, there are more cell subscriptions than people. The island nation of Dominica, for example, had 152 cell subscriptions for every 100 people in 2014. While other Caribbean countries have been lucky enough to avoid destruction on the scale of Puerto Rico, cellular and internet access after hurricanes is a region-wide problem.

Organizations Helping

Various organizations have proposed many innovations that could provide access to cell service and the internet in the aftermath of a disaster. One potential solution is internet balloons. These are huge balloons that float more than 12 miles in the air and grant internet access to huge swathes of land. Such balloons can undergo quick deployment in the wake of catastrophe and remain in the sky for as long as necessary. Unfortunately, Google’s Loon, the largest maker of these balloons, has shut down. As a result, the future of the idea is in doubt.

Other solutions also exist. Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA) is a special way of sending radio signals in disaster situations. TETRA is a decentralized system, so it can broadcast from boats, storm shelters, planes and countless other mediums.

TETRA is also a two-way system, allowing people to communicate with each other in addition to a central broadcaster. Several Caribbean nations, such as the Dominican Republic, already use TETRA systems to provide both warning and relief to the public.

Natural disasters are inevitable, and so much depends on a country’s ability to respond to and recover from them. Perhaps no factor is as important for recovery as good cellular and internet service. New technology will hopefully ensure that connectivity continues when people most need it.

– Thomas Brodey
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Engineering Good On April 7, 2020, Singapore commenced its Circuit Breaker — a series of measures designed to restrict social interaction — in an effort to safeguard the country from COVID-19. The government eased the restrictions after June 1, 2020, but the economic consequences reverberated long after, including a spike in unemployment and an estimated GDP contraction of 2.2%. As in other countries, low-income families in Singapore were more adversely affected by the pandemic and the disruptions that came with it. Impoverished Singaporeans felt a disproportionate impact, particularly in education, as students transitioned to home-based learning in compliance with Circuit Breaker measures. Parents and children from low-income households felt the proverbial rug pulled from under their feet as they scrambled to access laptops and reliable Wi-Fi routers and struggled to create an environment conducive to learning. Fortunately, Engineering Good stepped in to help with its Computers Against COVID campaign.

Engineering Good

Engineering Good, a Singapore-based charity established in 2014, supports low-income families and people with disabilities by improving their digital literacy and access to technology. Responding to the urgent need for laptops that arose due to home-based learning, Engineering Good refurbished secondhand laptops for low-income families in Singapore. The project became its flagship campaign, Computers Against COVID.

Computers Against COVID

The Computers Against COVID campaign began when the South Central Community Family Center reached out to Engineering Good requesting 24 laptops for low-income families in Singapore to support households’ home-based learning efforts. Leveraging the power of social media, the charity made requests to the public to donate their old laptops and computer accessories.

The response to Engineering Good’s social media campaign was overwhelming. Within two weeks, the charity had recruited more than 100 volunteers and received more than 600 laptops as donations. In an interview with The Peak Magazine, the executive director of Engineering Good, Johann Annuar, attributed the campaign’s success to Singaporean people’s desires to give back to society. The goodwill of donors and volunteers has enabled what was meant to be a one-weekend project of fixing a few laptops to transform into a more than year-long community endeavor.

As of May 2021, Engineering Good has refurbished and donated more than 4,000 laptops for low-income families in Singapore. The charity continues to receive requests of up to 200 laptops each month and works with around 200 social service organizations that help identify those most in need.

Continuing to Fight Digital Inequality

Given the Computers Against COVID campaign’s success, Engineering Good is now looking to transform the project into a long-term, sustainable initiative. The charity hopes to continue providing laptops and technical expertise to anyone in need, whether it be for home-based learning or other purposes, such as remote work. Invigorated by a sense of purpose, the organization’s volunteers are eager to continue making a difference, especially after realizing, as one volunteer described it, that “an extremely tiny sacrifice’’ of one’s time to fix a computer could potentially transform a family’s life for years.

While the issue of digital inequality has long loomed large in Singapore, COVID-19’s subversion of work and student life has accentuated the urgency with which both the public and nonprofit sectors must address the digital divide. As Engineering Good supports low-income families through laptop repair and other services, public demand for further government action is growing. As Singapore’s digital divide closes, impoverished families are able to participate in endeavors that educate and empower them, allowing disadvantaged Singaporeans to rise out of poverty.

Vyas Nageswaran
Photo: Flickr

Expanding Internet Access in the DRCIn today’s digital age, the internet is a norm in many people’s lives, as nearly 4.66 billion active internet users exist worldwide. People use the internet for communication, research, gaming and e-commerce. Yet, most citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have no access whatsoever to the internet. Only about 20 million people out of 100 million people living in the DRC have access to the internet. However, changes are occurring in the DRC. Nearly 9 million people in the last few years have gained access to the internet due to technology companies investing in the development of the internet in the DRC. Likewise, Liquid Intelligent Technologies (LIT) and Facebook are partnering to build a massive fiber network in the DRC. Here is some information about how they are expanding internet access in the DRC.

How LIT is Expanding Internet Access in the DRC

Liquid Intelligent Technologies plans on building a 2,000-kilometer-long fiber-optic cable network from the DRC to the Atlantic Ocean. From there, it will connect with the 2Africa submarine cable system, which Facebook has a major role in developing.

On completion, the undersea cable network will better connect the DRC to Europe and the Middle East. It will help complete LIT’s two-year-long project to build a vast digital pathway from the Atlantic Ocean connecting to East Africa and the Indian Ocean, where millions of people would gain access to the internet. In addition, it will bridge the democratic republic with its neighboring countries of Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia.

Facebook has invested in this operation and helped plan the fiber network, but LIT will be the company to build and own the fibre network. It also plans to provide internet service providers and services to network operators to take advantage of the fibre network. Thus, the company estimates that nearly 30 million people in the DRC will gain access to the internet.

However, the effort that is necessary will not be easy. “This is one of the most difficult fibre builds ever undertaken, crossing more than 2,000 km of some of the most challenging terrain in the world,” said Nic Rudnick, CEO of Liquid Intelligent Technologies. To help build the network, LIT will hire nearly 5,000 locals from communities in the Congo, employing many people and families in the DRC.

Why Internet Access in the Congo is Nonexistent

Government policies on censorship and high Wi-Fi costs ensure that the Congolese have no access to the internet. The government passed a censorship policy in 2002, called law No. 013/2002, which has the power to control telecommunications in the DRC. It grants the government the power to control telecommunications to defend the public or in the interest of national security. If telecommunication companies don’t comply with this law, they risk getting their operating licenses terminated. This forces many ISPs to shut off the internet.

Due to manipulation of this law, the Democratic Republic of Congo has cut off the internet, text-messaging services and social media services multiple times such as Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp to stifle civil and peaceful protests occurring in the country. In addition, the country is suffering economically as it is losing $2 million every day due to the termination of internet services.

Buying one gigabyte of mobile broadband data in the DRC costs a staggering 26% of monthly income. This makes the DRC the most expensive country to get access to the internet in the world because there are no rules regulating caps on internet prices. Additionally, customers bear the burden of high taxes on telecommunication companies. These reasons allow telecommunication companies to raise prices to an extreme.

Companies like Liquid Intelligent Technologies are expanding internet access in the DRC. However, the government will need to make changes in censorship policies on the internet, to ensure every Congolese can experience the joys of the internet.

Matthew Port Louis
Photo: Flickr

internet access in MoldovaMoldova is among the European countries with the highest poverty rate. However, it has made significant progress in reducing poverty since becoming independent from the Soviet Union, with the national poverty rate decreasing “from 28% in 2010 to 13% by 2018.” Furthermore, over the past two decades, Moldova’s GDP has risen by an annual rate of roughly 4.6%, largely due to consumption and the significance of remittances. Although COVID-19 has stalled progress in poverty reduction, potentially even reversing progress, there is hope for Moldova to get back on track to economic growth and advancement. Widespread internet access in Moldova may help the country strengthen and recover.

Small Country, Vast Internet

Despite the tiny country’s high poverty rate, internet access in Moldova ranks among the best in the world. Roughly 90% of Moldova’s population enjoys “superfast gigabit internet access.” While “the United States is twice as urbanized as Moldova, its gigabit coverage” reaches only 18% of the population. Only South Korea and Singapore, both much wealthier and more urbanized than Moldova, boast better coverage. The rest of the top 10 countries for gigabit coverage rank among the world’s 40 wealthiest nations globally. Meanwhile, Moldova ranks as only the 98th wealthiest nation in the world.

Since the dismantling of the Soviet Union in 1991, the international community has provided Moldova with grants and loans aimed at spurring economic growth and reducing poverty. The privatization of telecoms was a prerequisite in a developmental assistance offer from the World Bank in the late 2000s. To fulfill the condition, “a fiber optic cable was laid across” the Dniester River in 2009. Thanks to the new infrastructure, internet access became widespread as 99% of Moldovan communities were able to connect to the fiber optic network. Fiber optic cable also connects Moldova directly to Frankfurt in Germany, a major European digital hub.

Emigration and the Benefits of Connectivity

Moldova has high emigration rates —  as much as a quarter of the population live and work in Russia and other European countries, often illegally. As a consequence, Moldova is highly dependant on remittances. Many Moldovans working abroad purchase computers and send them to their families in Moldova for communication purposes. These communication methods require internet access, boosting the demand for internet access in Moldova even further.

Thanks to Moldova’s excellent internet speeds and connectivity, many countries have begun outsourcing IT and call center jobs to Moldova. Italy, in particular, outsources many jobs to Moldova because many Moldovans speak Italian as a second language. These outsourced jobs serve to ignite economic growth in Moldova, providing citizens with employment opportunities and a way out of poverty.

Internet Access and Poverty Reduction

The internet is recognized as a tool that contributes to the social and economic development of a country. Internet access aids in the “delivery of essential services such as education and healthcare.” Through the internet, people have access to remote job opportunities that were once out of reach. Furthermore, the internet not only expands people’s access to job opportunities but also creates a demand for jobs in the technology and engineering sectors.

According to the World Bank, increasing “internet penetration to 75% of the population in all developing countries” would contribute up to $2 trillion to their combined GDPs. Furthermore, this rate of penetration would generate “more than 140 million jobs” globally.

Widespread internet access in Moldova may help the country to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic. With the added assistance of international powers already investing in the country, Moldova can pick up where it left off and continue its trend of poverty reduction.

Courtney Roe
Photo: Flickr

Online businesses in GhanaPreviously, issues such as limited internet and bank access and informal home addresses made digital selling challenging for Ghanaian companies. However, advancement in these areas has allowed online businesses to grow, creating jobs in Ghana. Many college graduates in Ghana have started digital companies selling a wide range of products, including bags, footwear, clothes, grocery items, electronic goods and advanced cellular devices, among others. Some start companies also offer services such as repairing, cosmetics, interior decorating and photoshoots digitally. The growth of such companies has enabled them to offer many different types of employment to a greater population in Ghana.

Job Creation

From consumer services to promotions, financing to administrative tasks, retail managing to image consulting, online selling has many job opportunities to offer in Ghana, which had a 4.5% employment rate in 2020. For example, while the digital firm Jumia employs only around 500 people directly in online work, it employs more than 10,000 people indirectly. Online work does not always require people to have advanced technological abilities, only a willingness to learn. Online businesses also create associated non-online jobs.

For example, when people purchase meals and other items digitally, they require delivery. Nowadays, many companies offer delivery by motorcycle or van, creating many delivery jobs. Online businesses in Ghana also provide new jobs through collection posts, which have become more popular during the pandemic. These posts provide a safe and convenient way for customers to collect their goods while minimizing their risk of exposure to COVID-19. Collection posts hire post managers, shipment organizers and receptionists. In addition, some companies, such as Jumia, have encouraged digital businesses to expand by allowing people to collect their online purchases in-store.

Working from Home and New Digitial Stores

Many online businesses offer home-based and other off-site positions. Working from home not only enhances employees’ welfare and decreases stress, but it also helps reduce pollution as fewer people have to travel to work. Virtual connections allow people to associate with a worldwide community and conveniently work and buy what they need without having to travel. Additionally, digital companies can more easily provide short-term work such as contract, part-time and freelance work, which also helps to reduce poverty.

Moreover, in May 2018, a digital food store named Homeshoppa Ghana was introduced in Accra, the country’s capital. Homeshoppa Ghana matches its competitors’ prices in order to provide easily accessible, low-cost, standard groceries to every citizen. Access to stores like Homeshoppa Ghana allows people living in poverty to buy essential items at low prices.

Internet Advancements

The introduction of higher internet speeds and advanced cellphones in Ghana has helped prepare the marketplace for online retailers. By the end of 2017, 10.1 million Ghanaians, or 34%, were using the internet. As of January this year, the number of internet users had increased to 15.7 million. As more people begin to use the internet, online businesses are creating more new jobs in Ghana.

Jannique McDonald
Photo: Unsplash

Digitization in AfricaLiquid Intelligent Technologies (LIT) is “a pan-African technology group.” The group was established in 2005 and spans 14 countries, with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa. LIT provides custom digital solutions to private and public businesses across Africa. LIT hopes to utilize its fiber infrastructure to accelerate the accessibility of new innovative technologies and propel digitization in Africa.

LIT’s Impact

Digitization in Africa is vital for the continent’s economic growth. LIT’s extended expansion across 14 countries provides connectivity to small businesses, enterprises and government entities. This enables productivity through several digital solutions that cater to each of their needs.

LIT’s fiber infrastructure reaches more than 100 million people across the continent. This complex network creates new, innovative opportunities by providing accessibility to businesses and individuals across Africa and accelerating the continent’s digital transformation.

In 2021, LIT succeeded in deploying 100,000 kilometers (around 62,000 miles) of fiber infrastructure across Africa. This milestone makes LIT the “largest independent fiber network provider in emerging markets globally.” LIT plans to further accelerate digitization in Africa and create unique opportunities through digital inclusion.

LIT’s Other Achievements

  • LIT has provided a high-speed fiber network connection in the city of Mbuji-Mayi in the Democratic Republic of Congo, allowing access to three million people for the very first time.
  • LIT has enabled 4G connectivity through “1,500 new mobile network operator tower connections.” It is currently preparing to implement 5G technology, which can reach a speed of up to 100 times more than 4G.
  • High-speed internet has basically been absent in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the past decade. The country’s internet access is so limited that it ranked 145th in the world for internet access. LIT’s new extensive fiber infrastructure will allow the DRC to digitally transform along with the rest of Africa.

Broadband Access is a Basic Necessity

Broadband (high-speed) internet access is considered “a basic necessity for economic and human development in both developed and developing countries.” However, only about 35% of people in developing nations have access to the internet in stark contrast to 80% of people in developed economies. The goal is to provide high-speed internet access to all, particularly in rural areas.

The “digital divide” in internet and technology access disproportionately impacts rural areas and the impoverished. Higher internet access in cities compared to developing rural communities hinders shared prosperity and blocks “pathways out of poverty.”

Solving this problem could provide “millions of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue” in the years to come. According to the World Bank, increasing internet access from 35% to 75% in developing nations could add up to $2 trillion to their “collective gross domestic product (GDP).” Furthermore, this increase in internet penetration could establish more than 140 million jobs globally.

Access to high-speed internet boosts the economy. It is an essential tool for basic services such as education and healthcare. Further, it provides more opportunities for women’s development and enhances “government transparency and accountability.”

Bringing High-Speed Internet to Africa

The internet plays a vital role in allowing access to educational resources and providing knowledge sharing for students and their teachers. Africa only has a 20% internet penetration and LIT’s mission is to increase this by providing opportunities with its extensive fiber network and accelerating digitization in Africa.

Nic Rudnick, group CEO of LIT, tells Gadget magazine that “By providing access to information, connecting people to businesses everywhere and opening up new markets, the internet can act as an enabler of economic activity and an engine for information sharing.”

With the power of high-speed internet, LIT has helped address the most crucial challenges within “high-potential countries” such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. Digitization in Africa has never been more crucial in what is now a digital era. High-speed internet brings the promise of “peace, state-building, job creation and improved livelihoods.”

Addison Franklin
Photo: Flickr

Internet Access in the Philippines
The Philippines officially connected to the internet in 1994. Since then, its internet usage has seen incredible growth. From 2010 to 2020, the number of internet users nearly doubled, from 27% to 52%. Now, more than 73 million Filipinos use the internet and others have dubbed the Philippines the “social media capital of the world.” The internet has done a lot to improve education and the job market for the Filipino people. Though the internet is still improving, Filipinos have taken great strides in increasing internet access in the Philippines for those living in poverty.

In 2010, the Philippine Digital Strategy (PDS) was released to increase the Philippines’ digital infrastructure. This strategy includes a plan to provide “Internet for All,” declaring it a human right. It states that the internet gives people the freedom to communicate, work and learn. Since this statement, several projects have launched to make the Philippines’ internet as accessible as possible. These initiatives especially target those living in poverty or with lower incomes.

Free Internet Access in Public Places Act

One of these projects is the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act. This project aims to provide free wi-fi in all public places such as schools, parks, transportation ports and health facilities. This is incredibly important for those living in poverty, as wi-fi in the Philippines is among the most expensive in the world. By having free wi-fi in easily-accessible locations, people in the Philippines have more chances to work, communicate and learn online.

After government funding doubled in 2015, the project expanded its scope and brought the internet to more communities. For example, it establishes internet access to facilitate relief operations in areas that disasters hit. One such instance was in Burdeos, Quezon after Typhoon Ulysses affected it in November 2020. It has also created more than 20,000 hotspot locations around the country in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, it focuses its outreach on the Philippines’ rural areas, which still do not have nearly as much access as larger cities do.

TV White Space Deployment

Another project that helped to make the Philippines’ internet more accessible was the TV White Space Deployment (TVWS). White space comprises radio frequencies broadcasting stations use. However, many countries have been trying to convert white space into the internet to provide access to people living in rural areas. In the Philippines, this project addresses a strong need as 52% of the population lives in rural areas, yet only 37% had access to the internet in 2018.

TVWS focuses on getting the internet to as many rural schools, hospitals and businesses as possible. An example of this project’s impact is the large but remote fishing community. In 2014 alone, TVWS, along with FishR Program, was able to increase the number of fisherfolk with internet access from 250,000 to 1 million people, and have since set up online banking and an online platform to help them continue business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Internet and Education

Education is one of the most important factors to escaping and ending poverty. As such, the Philippines has been using the internet to make education more accessible. The Alternative Learning System (ALS), also called a “second chance education” program, is a system that mirrors the formal education system but allows students of all ages to learn online or at odd hours.

Nearly half of Filipinos are unable to complete formal, basic education for various reasons. The ALS program allows students to learn on their own schedule without needing to be there in person or give up work to do so. Currently, 5.5 million students are using ALS. The ALS program also offers a certificate that allows students to apply to higher education and vocational schools. It is also currently adding classes for adults who never finished school so that they can get higher pay and more training in their respective fields.

Looking Forward

While internet access in the Philippines has grown throughout the last decade, it can improve in many ways. Currently, the Philippines has one of the slowest internet systems in the world. There is also a need to make the internet cheaper; some suggest that more internet companies should enter the country to make a competitive market and lower consumer prices. There is also still a great need for more internet access in rural areas.

The Philippines is in an important transitional period; now, more than ever, the internet has a great chance of improving. Doing so will help Filipinos get through the aftermath of the pandemic, thrive economically, increase the middle class and even eradicate poverty.

– Mikayla Burton
Photo: Flickr

Virtual Learning In Kenya
Kenya is a country in East Africa with 26 million children, many of whom do not have the devices or internet access to partake in virtual learning. Schools have been closed for six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so children need to attend online classes to stay on track. The government is introducing a new digital learning model to 24,000 public schools so that virtual learning in Kenya is accessible to all children.

Internet for All

After Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru launched a digital learning program, Kenya’s government spent 15 billion KES so that schools can teach four subjects online. By using the funds, schools are building computer labs, distributing fiber optic cables, training teachers in digital learning and connecting remote areas to the Internet. Virtual learning in Kenya is only possible if every student has an internet connection and a device at home. Mucheru’s program will distribute digital learning devices that local universities will help develop. Most schools in remote areas of Kenya do not have power access. To combat this, Mucheru will implement solar power in these locations.

Many Kenyan students lacked internet access before their schools shut down, so the program has a learning curve. Luckily, public school children will learn how to use computers and the internet. This ensures they will acquire the same digital skills as children in private school.

The Bigger Picture: Worldwide Statistics

Two-thirds of all children under 18 (1.3 billion) do not have internet access at home, yet hundreds of millions of students must learn virtually. In developing countries, one in 20 children has an internet connection at home compared to nine in 10 children from developed countries. This creates a gap in global access to knowledge.

The digital divide worsens existing inequalities. As children from poor households are struggling to catch up with their peers, they are falling behind in school. Lack of internet access isolates children from the world and halts their education and computer-literacy journeys. According to ITU data, people struggle to compete in the modern economy with poor digital skills.

The Fight to Attend Online Class

During 2020, people broke social distancing to find internet access, thus risking their health. Students in China spent hours hiking to mountaintops in freezing temperatures to find a connection and attend online classes. Many developing countries use television to administer online lectures but rural households rarely have TVs. UNICEF recommends that countries include alternative learning sources like radios, homework packages and tablets. In 2019, UNICEF started Giga which aims to connect every school and its community to the internet. The program has succeeded in 800,000 schools in 30 countries.

Persistent Challenges

Even when children have internet access at home, chores and work might take priority over their studies. Since there are not enough devices for everyone, girls receive encouragement to pursue other things such as early marriage and housework. Computer literacy in girls is rare. Until children resume in-person school, these problems will persist. However, brand new computer labs and internet access that Kenya’s government is supplying will be waiting for them upon return. For now, most children can log into online school because virtual learning in Kenya is finally a reality.

– Rebecca Pomerantz
Photo: Flickr

Internet in AfricaAfrica has become a hub for electronic expansion in recent years. For example, more and more of its business and financial transactions are being made from mobile devices. Further, new technology in sub-Saharan Africa has rapidly been developed. The region has identified the benefits and uses of new systems of finance and governing. However, even though technology has been a focal point for many sub-Saharan countries recently, Africa’s overall connection to the internet has remained at a low level. Now, COVID-19 poses new challenges to business and connection. For many, having reliable access to the internet in Africa may be the difference between staying above or below the poverty line amid COVID-19.

Access to the Internet in Africa

While technology has rapidly expanded in Africa in recent years, only 18% of the population has reliable internet access, and only one in 10 households are connected to the internet. Further, the majority of this percentage is in urban areas. The governments of African countries face significant challenges in bringing more access to the rural parts.

One of the biggest challenges in this task is the commitment from private companies. Until recently, most of the internet connectivity in Africa has been left up to the private sector. However, the lack of pre-existing infrastructure in Africa’s rural areas makes developing connectivity in these areas quite expensive. For this reason, most of the private companies have never taken the time to invest in these regions. This highlights how technology can sometimes appear to be making great changes to the world, but in reality, it is only helping those who can afford it or who are profitable to invest in. More attention must be paid to the remote and impoverished communities that are not benefiting from our technological advances as this system only deepens inequality.

COVID-19 and Interpersonal Connection

Today, this inequality is beginning to change. Now local governments in Africa are more seriously committed to providing reliable internet to their people. This comes at the most crucial time as the COVID-19 pandemic has created numerous problems for interpersonal connection. Having internet access is now more critical than ever for business, global affairs and education. All of these points are crucial in lifting people out of poverty.

Because of governments’ efforts, many organizations are coming to Africa looking to further increase connectivity. The TZ21 program is successfully bringing new technological devices to Zanzibar in Tanzania. The Alliance for Affordable Internet has also been raising large sums of funding to provide reliable internet access to citizens of Africa. This organization has organized a stakeholder coalition in Nigeria and several other countries to work with local governments with the goal of providing reliable internet for all.

Future Progress for Africa

Africa has made great progress, but it still remains the least connected continent in the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how important it is to have internet in Africa. In addition, it also put pressure on local governments to find solutions for their citizens. Building back from this moment, Africa may choose to further invest in the infrastructure, skills, jobs, and policy to allow technology and global connectivity to flourish in Africa. All of these things would boost economies and social awareness all around Africa. It could potentially be the solution to many poverty-related problems.

Jackson Bramhall
Photo: Flickr