By Azka Asif, Rotary Service and Engagement staff
Today, we join the global community in celebrating International Literacy Day: a day uniting governments, civil society organizations, communities, teachers and key stakeholders to highlight our achievements in basic education and literacy while looking ahead on ways to address remaining challenges.
This year’s theme, Literacy in a Digital World, focuses on the challenges and opportunities of promoting literacy in our increasingly digital world. Digital technologies continue to drastically changing the way people live, work, learn and communicate. Innovative new technologies provide opportunities for people to easily access information and knowledge, make connections around the world, broaden their reach and change the world in unforeseen ways.
Rapid advancements have also resulted in a global ‘digital divide’: disparities in access to digital technologies. Today nearly four billion people around the world do not have access to the internet, nearly two billion people do not use a mobile phone, and almost half a billion live outside of areas with a mobile signal.* Those who do not have access to these technologies, or the knowledge and skills required to navigate them, end up being left behind.
According to UNESCO, nearly 750 million adults and 264 million out-of-school children still lack basic literacy skills making the divide even larger. Rotary members are addressing these challenges by closing the literacy skill gaps and reducing inequalities:
- The Rotaract Club of Ulhasnagar Sapna Garden in India hosted a digital literacy drive to train on the latest technologies. Rotaractors taught participants the basics of getting online using a computer and a mobile phone. Participants were taught how to run basic internet searches, navigate maps, stream videos, and create and manage online payment accounts.
- The Rotary Club of Eau Gallie in the United States provided a mobile computer lab for digital literacy training. The computer lab traveled through the country providing a course for underprivileged students. Students completing the course received a laptop to help them complete high school, prepare for college, research vocations and seek employment.
- The Rotary Club Chiavari Tigullio in Italy aimed to bridge the generation gap and promote literacy among senior citizens by conducting trainings on using digital devices. With the support of professional teachers, 30 young students were paired with 30 seniors to teach them how to use devices including computers, tablets, and mobile phones.
- To help bridge the digital divide in their community, the Rotary Club of Port-Harcourt Gateway in Nigeria conducted an 8-week computer literacy training program for eight underserved children. The students, between the ages of 6 and10, had no access to computer literacy. The club hopes to make this an annual event benefiting even more students in the future.
*World Bank (2016) The world Development Report 2016