The Stockholm Internet Forum (SIF) 2015 with more than 400 participants from over 90 countries – hosted by The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) – is in full swing and the first day of the main conference just came to an end. There was plenty of lively and fruitful debate on issues of internet access from a multi-dimensional perspective with a strong emphasis on social and structural inequalities.
I was pleased to be chosen to give a talk on “Promoting Digital Literacy in Developing Regions: Business Goals and Media Education in unison”, where I shifted the emphasis slightly from issues of physical access (i.e. the digital divide) to a more skill- or digital/media literacy-based approach to viewing barriers in access to the (mobile) internet – the so called “2nd-level digital divide”. My talk was inspired from and drew on my field research experiences from my ongoing PhD-research on the meanings of mobile phones in everyday life of urban Kenya (Nairobi).
While I was stressing the possibility of the corporate sector to bridge those gaps in media education that are not covered by public education curricula, I also pointed out the need of teaming up with professional (media) educators in order to carry out such trainings in a sensitive manner and not make them serve business interests alone. Here is the abstract of the talk I gave:
Physical access to the internet is still an issue in many sub-Saharan nations. What matters equally, however, are the still low levels of digital literacy among users. This is to say that the availability of digital media does not really help, if people have problems in using these services.
This is not only a problem because it means that people who can not fully use digital tools will suffer from further societal exclusion and economic disadvantages. The other problem is that media literacy training is often not part of public education and, if private lessons are taken, mostly expensive.
Since the digitally semi-literate represent a vast clientele of sub-Saharan media markets, I suggest that the mobile industry sets up training camps to bridge that gap in media education. This is not only to serve the public good (CSR) but also to develop businesses, because customers will be able to use the future services/devices. Users would benefit from media skills-development that leads to improved usage scenarios, while at the same time being part of the product design process and not having to appropriate technologies that were originally designed for other times and places (i.e. the west).
There was a short interview conducted with me just before the talk, which can be viewed below:
I am already looking forward to the second part of the conference tomorrow!