IGF2019 discussion on digital skills and education in rural areas

This year’s Internet Governance Forum #IGF2019, happened in Berlin, at Estrel congress center, gathering thousands of Internet practitioners, researchers, developers, and contributors. This year’s IGF focused on three main themes: data governance; digital inclusion; and safety, security, stability and resilience.

Digital inclusion means more than just providing an internet access and bridging the digital divide level one. It is also about affordable or free access, it takes digital literacy skills to use the internet in local languages, addressing gender divide, and enhancing access for vulnerable groups. Digital inclusion also requires helping people utilize the internet in ways that best address their needs and empower them to seize the basic life opportunities (work force, education, economic opportunities, etc.).

Having said that, I was invited by the German Informatik Society (Gesellschaft für Informatik) and Turing Bus project to participate in the Sustainability corner, panel, and discussion on digital skills and education in rural areas.

I had a brief presentation on the Digi project and connecting the rural areas in regards to education and digital literacy. There were follow up comments and questions, as we had a fruitful conversation on education in rural areas and internet connectivity. The Basic Internet Foundation has an ongoing commitment to digital inclusion and the development of adults’ digital skills. Also, empowering women and girls to be the frontiers in bridging the digital divide. We partnered with many organizations in Africa, African child empowering girls and young women for digital skills, HOPin Academy from Ghana, Tech bridge partner in Kenya, governments of Tanzania, Ethiopia, etc. There was supportive feedback from the audience, who was especially enthusiastic about the idea of digital empowering rural areas in Africa and other countries.

The cherry on the cake, during the IGF, was successful meetings with colleagues from the APC, ICT research for Africa, various ISOC chapter representatives, IIT Bombay, and ITU, Geneva. It was empowering and interesting to hear and learn about different initiatives and perspectives that contribute to digital inclusion.

Main takes for digital inclusion can be found throughout IGF sessions and discussions on community networks, public-private partnerships, and financial incentives for infrastructure deployment, education, financial inclusion, gender equality, and online use of local languages. In the upcoming years, digital inclusion will acquire new dimensions and dynamics, as more emphasis will be put on the development and use of AI and IoT tools.

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