Vishnu Taimni, Vice-President & Managing Director Middle East, Turkey, and East Africa at HP expresses his views about the digital divide that exists in our society and how can we come around it to overcome the lopsided divide.
The digital divide is not evenly distributed. It’s not so much a single chasm that needs to be bridged but a patchwork of rips and tears that necessitates localised answers and nuanced strategies. Solutions must go beyond determining who has a PC and who does not. Education, healthcare, and the ability of technology to offer opportunities and improve learning results for millions of people must all be prioritised. This is a job for both governments and the business sector, and it must be addressed right away.
To make genuine progress in the coming decade, corporate leaders must prioritise local solutions to this multifaceted challenge, assisting in the democratisation of the divide and the integration of the numerous elements of the fractured technological ecosystem. How can we achieve this? Here are two ways, I recommend:
Private and public partnerships are crucial, especially in emerging markets
Currently, there is a significant disparity between mature and emerging markets. While mature countries tend to focus on equity among a population that is already online, emerging markets may be grappling with issues such as broadband connectivity, mobile technology infrastructure, and providing inexpensive internet access to a larger portion of the population.
Partnership is the key to progress. Private enterprises can spur innovation and bring the best ideas to market, while public bodies have the tools to identify concerns and possibilities for better digital infrastructure. Both are critical to society’s digital transformation.
Harmonising access to hardware and connectivity in mature markets
The question becomes how to recognise systematic imbalances that affect marginalised groups among populations that already have broad access to tech in some manner.
We may begin by reviewing our educational system and increasing access to high-quality technology and training. For example, in some countries, hardware access might not be as much of an issue as the actual content itself. We need tools and curriculums that encourage creativity, charisma, and collaboration – all of which are essential components of well-functioning societies and economies. Last year, for example, we launched several initiatives like the Classroom of the Future, HP Innovation Garage, and the Digitally Advanced School, etc. where we recognised the need to support communities and give educators and students tools to succeed in the blended learning space, an education model that experts say is here to stay.
HP is supporting this new educational ecosystem and classroom of the future with initiatives like HP IDEA (Innovation & Digital Education Academy), a one-year immersive teacher development program designed to enable teachers and students to navigate blended learning. We believe the skills that technology provides are just as important as the tech itself. That’s why we’ve committed to bettering learning outcomes for more than 100 million people by 2025. Activating holistic solutions focused on enhancing hybrid education and work models will facilitate better learning outcomes and help close the digital divide.
How access leads to outcomes
The digital divide is not a waiting game. We cannot afford to think that it’s simply a “matter of time” before everyone has internet access. If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that tech is an enabler and an equaliser.
Even though there is a lack of content and services available in the Arabic language or a large number of smaller businesses without a digital presence, governments in the region have begun addressing these issues to help reduce digital divides by creating more reasons for widespread digital adoption and engagement.
The good news is that there is a new mandate for private companies to help address this inequality alongside governments, academia, families and all stakeholders who see that technology access is a must-have. No doubt—there are competing priorities. Budgets are shrinking, but digital equity should be what ties our post-COVID recovery together. It’s the framework for our future. Infused with humanity and driven by intersectionality, we can begin to collectively address this issue from multiple angles and build a future where everyone plays a part.