Gill Peace, Senior Institutional Funding Officer at British Red Cross, offers her summary of this workshop at our Summit on digital inclusion in sub-Saharan Africa.
Isimbi Sebageru from the Sub-Sahara Advisory Panel, had the tricky job of facilitating a workshop with the presenters being online. Isimbi outlined some of the basic context in Africa, where the proportion of young people in the population is growing faster than anywhere else in the world, and the digital technology sector is also the fastest growing in the world. The unequal access to technology, in terms of access to devices, internet and skills, is further widening inequalities, especially for women and people with disabilities. For example, in Kenya 46% of the population have access to the internet via a mobile device but only 7% of people with disabilities do. This is compounded by the gender divide.
Rochelle Ampomah-Ababio, who is in London preparing to become a trainee solicitor, is also a social entrepreneur. Rochelle is the founder of The Three Es Africa, an e-learning community for women in Africa focused on career and personal development. Lack of access to digital skills impacts education and employment, as well as personal networking and social connections, meaning women cannot gain the benefits of digital technology. The lack of access can be due to cost, unreliable service, gender stereotypes and cultural influences. The Three Es is an e-learning resource for women based on WhatsApp, which is the most accessed platform for women in Africa. It is a safe space for women and girls to ask questions and seek advice. The resources can be downloaded when the user has internet access and used offline. Content aims to be accessible and inclusive, and is supported by mentors, who are also role models for other women. The learning is aimed at improving digital skills and career development.
Collins Losu is Inclusion Manager at the German Institute of Business Technology and Azubi Africa, where he leads on disability, refugee, and women inclusion in the organisation. Joining the workshop from Ghana, Collins highlighted the overarching principle of “Leave no one behind” for holistic development. Digital exclusion of a significant proportion of the population is a huge opportunity missed. The lack of disaggregation for people with disabilities and lack of public awareness is a challenge when it comes to improving inclusion. A Lack of teachers’ own access prevents them from providing support and adaptations so pupils with disabilities can access education. Collins is passionate about setting up a hub to design appropriate and affordable technology so people with disabilities can gain digital skills. At Azubi, Collins is helping to lead the way in offering accessible training for software engineers, data scientists, database managers and many more. The intentional targeted initiatives, which build in reasonable adjustments, is key to inclusion.
The presenters did a great job but unfortunately the technology did not allow for any discussion that was built on the ideas and experience presented. However, the participants clearly understood that there are huge challenges, but that entrepreneurs are already finding solutions that can be implemented to improve inclusion.