Tech leaders should join the fight against digital inequalities



Over the past year, many learners, teachers and parents have experienced firsthand the severe impact of the pandemic on education: School closures interrupted learning, and many were not so prepared. than others to home schooling due to lack of access to equipment or the Internet. This has highlighted the harsh reality of the digital divide and the lack of digital equity in South Africa and the very real and urgent need to address it.

Bradley Pulford, vice president and general manager of HP Africa

As we move into a more hybrid world of learning and working, the skills needed during the pandemic will not be wasted once it abates or everyone is vaccinated. This experience has shown us how essential it is for young people in the country to master computers and have the means to learn from home, whatever the circumstances.

We must find sustainable educational solutions to create sustainable economic, social and environmental programs to improve living standards. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), education for sustainable development means giving learners of all ages the knowledge and skills to tackle global challenges such as climate change. , poverty and, of course, inequality. Communication services and technological innovations must be accessible and affordable for all because of the implications they have for sustained economic development.

Learning initiative for entrepreneurs

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, as an organization, we have stepped up our initiatives that support blended learning and advance the digital equity required, especially during times like the global school shutdown. We were also able to progress halfway toward the company’s goal of achieving sustainable learning outcomes for 100 million people by 2025, including a 210% increase in HP Life enrollments.

Life stands for Learning Initiative For Entrepreneurs and is a free vocational training program of our non-profit foundation. It offers entrepreneurs, business owners and lifelong learners around the world over 30 online courses in seven languages. The courses are modular, interactive and rich in information and practical exercises that allow users to develop their business skills.

Four key elements for true digital equity

To achieve true digital equity, four key elements are needed: hardware in the form of laptops and printers; Internet access; high quality learning materials; and digital literacy or the skills to use technology.

To tackle digital inequalities, we must commit to making all four elements affordable and available to the most vulnerable and marginalized students and their families.

But there is also a cost to the lack of digital equity; the United States alone is losing over $ 130 million (R 1.8 billion) a day in economic activity when people are not online. For South Africa, where the level of digital inequity is much higher, the cost of not having our learners and workforce online is even higher.

According to Unesco, 73% of African countries reported using some online strategies as of September 2020. However, access to devices and connectivity was not widespread, and even in places where the technology was available, teachers often felt ill-prepared to deliver lessons digitally. That’s because until the pandemic hit, it wasn’t an essential skill – it was just a ‘nice to have’ addition to basic subject knowledge and traditional pedagogy.

We have to work together

As digital technology transforms all aspects of our lives, there is a real danger that more and more people will be left behind. We cannot allow this to happen, and we must work together to break this digital divide that prevents too many from accessing the education, jobs and health care they need to thrive.

These are important breakthroughs that build on years of progress, but we still have work ahead of us. This is a challenge that no company, sector or country can tackle alone, which is why I urge my fellow CEOs and business leaders in the technology sector and beyond to join our common fight for protect our future – before it’s too late.



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