Literacy, Digital Literacy, and Disability Barriers and Solutions to ICT Use in Developing Countries

  • Title: Literacy, Digital Literacy, and Disability Barriers and Solutions to ICT Use in Developing Countries
  • Publication Type: Conference Proceedings
  • Authors: Vanderheiden, G.

Full Text

ICT and networks have an increasing impact on low income and developing regions, providing new opportunities to those who can use it, – and putting at further disadvantage those who cannot.   Today’s interfaces are often complex, require literacy to use, and are not accessible by many with access problems due to literacy, lack of computer experience, disabilities and/or the effects of aging.  Affordable mechanisms that are based on the realities in developing and low income regions need to be identified in order to allow equal participation and benefit from these new technologies.

The focus of this workshop on ICT and developing nations was on determining the needs and barriers to ICT use in developing countries and strategies for solving them.  This report provides key observations and points from the workshop.  They are provided in brief outline form to aid in readability and dissemination of the results.

1. Importance of ICT

Before launching in how to Make ICT accessible it was useful to collect information on how ICT is used by people in developing countries.  Especially of interest are uses that differ from ordinary uses of ICT.   Here are some that came up in our working session.

  • GPS
    • To tell people when on trek where they are so they do not accidentally enter areas they do not belong – and avoid conflict
    • To tell others where borders are so people are not attacked when they are NOT in the wrong place – (both sides know where borders are)
  • Weather
    • Traditional methods and knowledge on when to plant and harvest no longer work with climate change
  • Disease warning and action
    • To tell when diseases are possible to prevent them
    • To recognize what has happened or is happening
    • To ask/learn how to address problems
  • Prices
    • To understand when one is being treated fairly or not
    • To know which markets may be better
    • To know when it is better to sell now or later
  • Children
    • To learn about things not otherwise available
    • To learn about technology itself
    • To learn in ways that are more tuned to children’s lifestyles (mobile, different hours, asynchronous (not as a class))
  • Refugee camps
    • ICT may be the only way to communicate with their families outside the camp – or in other camps

2. Barriers to use

We also looked at barriers to use.  Again there are the barriers that everyone would think of.  But there are also barriers that are only obvious to those more familiar with daily life in different countries.

Predictable Barriers to use

  • Some barriers are those that one would expect
    • Lack of equipment
    • Lack of experience by participants
    • Need for local trainers
    • Lack of connection to internet
  • Vicious Cycle
    • No access while others do have access
    • Lower skills and less advantages (access to info etc)
    • Lower employability
    • Less money
    • Less ability to afford
    • Reduced access
    • (go to top and start down again)
  • Cost and connection
    • Need to have Device and connection.   (Connection often the hardest problem – not the hardware)
    • One study in Columbia showed that 2 % of people with visual disabilities had internet access vs  38.5% for general population.
  • Form of information
    • Not just the ability to get the information – but the ability to get it in a form that the person can use
      • Proper language
      • Audio vs Video

Less Considered Barriers to use        

Some barriers are less thought of or not obvious to people living in developed countries

  • Not in the culture
    • Social barriers to get it known  (Santiago)
    • Generation Problem
      • Expectations of elders – for themselves and for others
    • See also “Perceived Immorality” below
  • Migratory nature of children – families
  • On trek so not in one place day to day
  • When a family has a computer (given to them) and no food for the children – the computer may soon be “stolen” in order to keep the children from starving.
  • Daily responsibilities
    • Children often are not in school because they are needed to carry out chores of the family
      • Fetching water from distant wells
      • Herding and watching animals  (goatherd)
    • Sometimes alternative methods for meeting children’s responsibilities are needed to allow them to attend school
      • eWatertanker  (water tanker for use only by children who are in school)
      • eGoatherd ( Goatherd that will watch children’s animals while they are in school)
      • (see also “Higher Priorities in life”  below)
  • Perceived Immorality
    • For some countries it is seen as immoral for women to leave the house to go out to work.   Some even consider it in the same category as prostitution – or an assumption or suspicion that you are a prostitute if you regularly leave the house
      • An inability to have an Internet connection at the house then becomes a major barrier.  If they could be connected – and work at home – then it is much easier for them to learn, work, create, earn a living, fulfill themselves in additional ways (economic, social, etc) in addition to family.
      • Children who are raised in connected families are also much more computer literate and skilled from an early age.
  • Theft
    • Give a child a computer and it may not last long
    • Might even attract injury to the child
  • Higher priorities in life
    • When a family has a computer (given to them) and no food for the children – the computer may soon be “stolen” in order to keep the children from starving.

3. Solutions 

We also looked at and collected ideas on how to address these problems.  Again the emphasis here is on the more innovative or unexpected

More Unusual/Innovative/Unexpected Solutions

  • USE the prejudices
    • People who have disabilities are considered to be “less able” “less smart”.   One project built on this and started first with people who were deaf.   They picked up on the computers quickly – and then many others suddenly felt that computers must not be that difficult and tried them when they were otherwise intimidated by them.
  • Reverse the vicious cycle
    • Access to technology
    • Access to connectivity
    • Digital literacy
    • Education in general
    • Creativity
    • Productivity
    • Employment
    • Production
    • Civil Society
    • Safety
    • Government
  • 5 Phases for computer education
  1. Educate some leaders/teachers/trainers
  2. Educate Children
  3. Educate the Women
  4. Educate working age men
  5. Educate everyone
  • Focus on Women not men
    • Teaching a man does not propagate to others – they primarily use
    • Teach a woman and it propagates to children and others – they primarily teach.share
  • Get connectivity to homes
    • Easier for women to access and use
    • Easier to do intermixed with child care
    • Easier to expose and teach children
    • Easier to control what children do on internet
    • More compatible with some cultures
    • Best if broadcast (e.g. WiFi ) so wires do not point to particular houses – or even workmen installing things.
  • Projectors
    • Can give more access
    • Allow use of materials for teaching groups
    • Think about environment
  • Drive-by-Wi-Fi
    • Bus net
      • Bus travels to villages routinely
      • Mount WiFi Access Point on the bus
      • Install a special “harvest/serve”  server
      • Bus stops in each village
        • People log on via Wi-Fi
        • Get their email – send email
        • Search the DataStore on the bus server
        • Send searches to internet
      • Bus goes to city
        • Sends email
        • Receives email,
        • Refreshes its datastore
        • sends searches and saves results
      • Goes back round to villages
    • Motor-cycle Net
      • Same as Bus-net except motorcycle goes to villages not on bus route
      • Cyclist drinks coffee while residents upload download
      • (Cyclist is caffeine drunk by end of day)
  • Wikipedia on a USB
  • Global Public Leadership Program
    • Bring people from developing countries to developed countries to learn and to see impact and use of technologies
    • They then take it back with them
  • Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure
    • Infrastructure that can lower costs
      •  (to individuals and countries)  and make it much easier to learn about and use solutions for people facing barriers due to
        • Literacy
        • Digital Literacy
        • Disability
        • Effects of Aging
  • Enhance Prosperity
    • GPII can enhance the prosperity of individuals
    • Also enhance prosperity of countries
      • More digitally literate workers
      • Fewer people without skills – that must be supported
      • Ability to create an assistive technologies industry in country
        • To serve that country
        • To export
      • Not just technologies but also services
  • Three major parts of GPII
  1. An easy way for people to figure out
  • That there are things that can help them
  • What exactly would help them
  • What the options are for their country, language, culture, price
  1. A way to apply it anywhere on any machine
  • Auto-personalization of any machine
    • Family computer adjusts instantly to each different person as they sit down to it
      • Elders  - needing simpler interface
      • Disability – needing special interface
      • Young – wanting standard or complex interface
      • Etc.      
    • Computers at school
      • Auto-configure to each different student
    • Computers at community center
      • Auto-configure for people needing different interfaces
      • Instantly change back for other patrons
  1. A way to make it easier, faster, cheaper for anyone to create, develop, market, and support new access technologies internationally
  • Tools and parts
  • Resources ( information and experts with and without disabilities) to help with development
  • Localization tools (to adapt assistive technologies to different languages)
  • International marketplace (like App Stores)

Other issues Identified

  • Giving Technology is not good enough
    • Education is key – (not just general education)
    • What was using up your time before?   Was that important?  Why? What are you doing to preserve that?
    • Cyber Crime (things they never learned in life before)
    • Cyber exploration  (controls needed?) (Opportunities and temptations never before available)
    • Banking  (something good – but also easy to be taken advantage of)
    • Out of reach (understanding that dealing over the Internet is distant and anonymous.  Can’t go confront people if things go bad. May not even be able to find them)
    • Scams, Scams, and more Scams – of all types. Continually changing, evolving and getting better.
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