Strategies for bridging the gap in access to technology and internet service
One of the world's poorest nations, Liberia, is struggling with a significant digital divide that has an impact on both its educational system and its ability to thrive economically. The digital divide refers to the disparity between persons or groups who have access to modern technology and those who do not. Due to the high expenses of purchasing and maintaining technology, the digital gap is pervasive in many developing nations. Low literacy rates and poor infrastructure in Liberia further contribute to the country's digital divide. A thorough strategy that would boost access to technology, develop digital literacy, and offer technical support is needed to solve the digital gap in Liberia. The government of Liberia, in partnership with non-governmental organizations and private sector companies, can play a crucial role in bridging the digital divide.
Access to technology should be made more widely available as one of the first stages toward closing the digital divide. This can be achieved by giving remote libraries and schools access to computers, the internet, and software. Moreover, Wi-Fi hotspots and other community-based projects can increase mobile internet availability in rural areas. Funding for such an endeavor might be provided in a crucial way by donors and international organizations. Increasing digital literacy is a crucial first step in closing the digital gap. Technology education-focused training programs can be established by the government and non-governmental groups in rural areas. The training ought to address fundamental computer abilities, web usage, and online safety. By offering classes in regional tongues, training programs might be created to meet the demands of the local population.
The need to provide technical support to those with restricted access to technology is also necessary. This can be accomplished by establishing community technology centers that offer technical support and repair services. Local technicians who are able to help rural residents on the spot can work in these centers.
As a result, closing the digital divide in Liberia calls for a multidimensional strategy that emphasizes technical assistance, digital literacy training, and technological access. The government, non-governmental groups, and private sector businesses must work together to close the gap. Through a comprehensive strategy, Liberia can create a trained workforce with the necessary tools to compete in the global market.
In the current digital era, having access to technology and internet services is essential for social and economic progress. Yet, there is a sizable digital divide in Liberia, just like in many other developing nations, with a sizable percentage of the population lacking access to technology and internet services. To ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to engage in the digital economy, the digital gap is a crucial issue that needs to be addressed. This article will go over ways to close the access gap in Liberia for technology and internet services.
Understanding the Digital Divide in Liberia
Liberia, a West African country with a current population of 5,377,025 as of Sunday, March 12, 2023, based on Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nations data. Liberia's internet penetration rate stands at 22.0 percent of the total population at the start of 2022 according to datareportal.
Datareportal estimates that in 2022, just 22.0% of people had access to the internet. There are a number of reasons for this low rate of internet adoption, including the expensive nature of internet services, a lack of infrastructure, and low levels of digital literacy. The distance between those who have access to contemporary information and communication technologies (ICTs) and those who do not are known as the "digital divide." This gap affects people, homes, enterprises, and geographical areas. Due to poor internet access and low ICT adoption rates, the digital divide in Liberia continues to be a serious problem.
Liberia had one of the lowest internet penetration rates in the world in 2022, according to datareportal, with only 22.0%. Only urban areas, where telecommunications infrastructure is comparatively superior than in rural areas, have access to the internet. For people residing in rural areas of the country, this imbalance has led to limited access to essential services including healthcare, education, and banking.
Another factor that contributes to the digital divide in Liberia is the cost of internet services. According to the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), the average cost of 1GB of mobile data in Liberia is around 8.7% of the average monthly income, which is well above the affordable threshold of 2% recommended by the United Nations. High internet costs are a significant barrier to internet adoption, especially among low-income households and individuals.
In conclusion, the digital divide in Liberia remains a significant challenge, with limited internet connectivity and high internet costs being the main barriers to ICT adoption. The government and other stakeholders must work together to address these challenges and promote digital inclusion, especially for those living in remote and underserved areas.
Bridging the Gap: Strategies for Addressing the Digital Divide
- Improving Infrastructure
The absence of infrastructure is one of the main causes of Liberia's low internet penetration rate. An essential requirement for internet connectivity is dependable energy, which is lacking in many areas of the nation. The government must make infrastructure investments to bring internet connectivity to underserved communities in order to close the digital divide. These investments should include energy, fiber-optic cables, and other network infrastructure. To accomplish this, the government can collaborate with businesses in the private sector.
- Increasing Digital Literacy
Digital literacy is another critical factor that contributes to the digital divide. Many people in Liberia lack the skills and knowledge required to use technology and access the internet. To address this, the government can provide digital literacy training programs for all age groups. The training programs should focus on basic computer skills, internet browsing, and online safety. Digital literacy training programs can be implemented in schools, libraries, and community centers.
- Reducing the Cost of Internet Services
High internet service costs are another barrier to internet access in Liberia. The government can work with internet service providers to reduce the cost of internet services. The government can also provide tax incentives to internet service providers to encourage them to expand their services to underserved areas. This will not only increase access to the internet but also promote competition among internet service providers, leading to lower prices.
- Implementing E-Government Services
The government can also promote the use of e-government services to improve access to public services. E-government services can be used to provide information and services to citizens through online platforms. This will reduce the need for physical visits to government offices, making it easier for citizens to access government services. E-government services can also promote transparency and accountability in government.
- Promoting Public-Private Partnerships
Public-private partnerships (PPPs) can be an effective way to bridge the digital divide in Liberia. PPPs can bring together the government, private sector, and civil society to work towards increasing access to technology and internet services. The government can provide incentives to the private sector to invest in infrastructure and provide internet services in underserved areas. PPPs can also be used to provide digital literacy training programs and support the implementation of e-government services.
The digital divide in Liberia is a critical issue that needs to be addressed to ensure that everyone has equal opportunities to participate in the digital economy. Improving infrastructure, increasing digital literacy, reducing the cost of internet services, implementing e-government services, and promoting public-private partnerships are strategies that can be used to bridge the gap in access to technology and internet services in Liberia. The government, private sector, and civil society need to work together to implement these strategies and ensure that everyone in Liberia has access to technology and internet services.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Willie Bee Tingba, Jr. is a Liberian youth and the leading Digital Rights Activist, Former Lecturer at BlueCrest University Liberia, Founder, and President Emeritus at the Liberia Information Technology Student Union (LITSU).He can be contacted at the following WhatsApp number and email addresses +231777538605 / firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com