Digital potential to combat poverty – there is still a big gap

Wherever I have been during my Indian stay, even in small tribal villages, while talking to people, it happened after a while: People came closer, interested to find out more on what I was doing with the smartphone.

Nearly everyone of the younger generation (not just the youngest, but also men and women up to 40, 50 years) – in the cities, in villages, among tribal communities – love the mobile. Even in the remote and poorest surroundings people asked e.g. how Facebook and Internet works and what I do with it. Men and women, boys and girls joined within a few minutes when the first person asked about it… The groups of interested people became huge when I started to show some of the apps and other functionalities.

No doubt, the interest and motivation to see, explore and to try out the digital world is enormous – even in people with a rather low education background.

Meanwhile in cities such as Bangalore and Hyderabad the digital boom is incredibly advanced, billions are earned and thousands of youngsters are among the most specialized digital experts of the world, not far away, in the poor surrounding basic digital education is missing  – the digital ‘gap’ is huge. Again one of the extreme contrasts between rich and poor in India.

Why is the digital interest not used much more to make change happen?

Digital interest - a key to motivation
Digital interest – a key to motivation

In the villages there are always people who are owners of a mobile, although in some villages the number of mobiles is very low and seldomly they have smartphones or really an idea what they could do with it and why a direct Internet access could help them a lot. There is simply a lack of awareness, availability
and access.  One old computer somewhere that does not work anymore, no devices that really connect easily to the Internet, no money to buy Internet flats …

The government supports older students and gives them laptops – but in the villages itself there is still a huge need – meanwhile the rest of the world is going more and more digital.  The digital revolution and digital based globalization is a privilege to those who gain money – which means that the gap between rich and poor will continue to grow.

The village people use the mobile mostly for calls and some SMS. People who have Internet love WhatsApp …

But why there are only a few development programs in place to use the Internet potential? Why only a few NGOs show them how a good use of the Internet can  deliver basic and advanced knowledge and solutions for daily problems, e.g. with agriculture, water usage and storage, sanitation and hygiene issues and even help to sell and accelerate the income of very small business units? There might be concrete reasons such as language/illiteracy. Yes, maybe – but there are many videos available for free that explain so much about constructions, seeds, nutrients … and many are things are understandable even without too many words. Specific e- learnings could help. Couldn’t the poor learn and do much more by themselves? The do-it-yourself motivation  – has it ended up at the borders to emerging countries? Why don’t we really encourage them to try out and invest here much more?

Is it maybe that we do we not want them to become part of the big market? I always heard some “maybe, but they cannot, etc.” when I asked to NGO managers.

Do we still prefer to go with one-to one teaching instead of helping them to become independent and to enable them to learn whatever they want by using at a wide range of e-learning combined with face to face workshops?

Unfortunately, the situation in tribal villages and rural or limited urban surroundings is still poor: missing knowledge on how to use the Internet, no idea about online Business, no direct approach to find out what is happening in other parts of the world – that’s the reality.

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