Covid-19 has accelerated the rate of adoption of digital technology around the world, but has also revealed the depth of the digital divide around the world. For millions of people living in Africa, who do not have access to the internet or to laptops and smartphones, the pandemic has resulted in greater social and economic isolation.
In 2020, 56.3% of South Africa‘s 60 million people were internet users. This figure is expected to rise to 57.8% this year, up to 62.3% by 2025 . Figures from Internet World Stats suggest that as of December 2020, around 634 million people in Africa were Internet users, or 47.6% of the continent’s population.
Many factors play a role in entrenching the continent’s digital divide, including the high cost of technology and connectivity, which is exacerbated by the lack of reliable network infrastructure.
The pandemic, with its lockdowns and restrictions, has hit Africans hard, resulting in job losses, food insecurity, entrenched poverty and – perhaps most worryingly – major setbacks in the delivery of education.
One organization that is committed to promoting digital inclusion in Africa and globally is media and telecommunications software and services provider, Amdocs. The company employs 26,000 people worldwide and creates opportunities for 70,000 more through its operations and supply chain.
Its initiatives in Kenya and Mexico have helped hundreds of thousands of people during the pandemic. Currently in the planning phase, the company is currently working on another digital inclusion project in South Africa.
Amdocs, VP: Customer Business Executive, George Fraser says the company’s overarching social impact strategy is to deliver digital solutions that solve global problems. “As a company that creates digital journeys for our customers, we have the skills and capabilities to bring them to the communities that need us most. The last year has resulted in almost everything being abandoned, and our ability to accelerate digital inclusion has become our top priority. “
One of its key projects – carried out in collaboration with the Safaricom Foundation – was to provide internet access to children in Kenya. “The initiative is a perfect example of how employee engagement and social impact can come together,” says Fraser.
“Every year, we conduct an organizational health survey, which is open to all employees. In 2020, we encouraged employees to participate by pledging internet access to a child in Kenya for every survey completed. The response has been astounding. Employees were very receptive to the initiative and there was a significant increase in the number of surveys completed last year, ”notes Mr. Fraser.
Amdocs employees said the initiative helped them feel more connected and engaged with the company and its initiatives. It made them proud to work for an organization that had a tangible impact on the lives of others.
Another very successful project was the creation of an app to connect food insecure people in Mexico with businesses with surplus food. The app currently helps more than 400,000 people access food. The project is run entirely by volunteers – in collaboration with local authorities – and is Amdocs’ most impactful initiative to date.
In addition, the company offers digital skills training aimed at specific target populations, whether it’s showing older people how to use communication platforms to connect with loved ones or teaching women and children with basic – or more advanced – digital skills to increase their digital literacy. or improve their employability.
Amdocs is currently running an internal competition for its employees to get ideas on how to advance digital inclusion and help solve the problems the world is facing. “We are also looking for two projects in Africa to support this year – they must be legitimate organizations, such as universities or NGOs, capable of providing viable solutions to social challenges. Our role will be to bring technological expertise to the mix, ”notes Mr. Fraser.
He says Amdocs’ role doesn’t end with its own programs. “We are also helping other organizations find ways to solve social issues in their respective countries and regions, for example, we have helped an Australian company in their drive to provide free data to students.”
Digital inclusion is so high on Amdocs’ agenda that shareholders are kept informed of progress in this area, alongside business and financial results. “The purpose of our company is” to enrich lives and advance society. ” It is not only our CSR objective. We are deeply aware of the inequalities created by the digital divide; the massive gap between the privileged and the underprivileged; and inequality in their access to education and other services.
“This is why we are committed to providing life changing help to those who need it most, for example by giving children access to the Internet or to a device when they cannot go to school.” . It could be the difference between losing a year in school, maybe even dropping out, or moving on to the next year and moving on in life, ”concludes Fraser.
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