Across the globe more than two billion of us have access to the Internet with five billion owning or having access to a mobile phone. Children are growing up in a world where social media, mobile technology and online communities are fundamental to the way that they communicate, learn and develop. In recent years the speed, flexibility and affordability of the rapidly evolving digital technology has slowly helped to decrease the digital divide, enabling millions of young people in developing countries to join the digital world.
Increasingly, technology is being seen as a powerful tool for development and change, where it is currently supporting the battle to achieve youth-focused targets in global education, livelihoods and health.
In poorer countries the ‘digital divide’ is often more extreme as computer resources remain greatly overstretched. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), in Egypt, the Dominican Republic, Nepal and the Philippines, over 100 children share a single computer in primary schools. This is largely related to the lack of electricity in many schools; for instance, in Nicaragua, only a quarter of elementary schools have access to electricity and in Nepal, only 6% of primary schools and 24% of secondary schools have electricity.
Several high-profile tech companies have launched global initiatives to increase access to technology for children and young people in the world’s poorest countries, pouring millions of computers and educational materials into ICT training programmes. Computer giant Dell runs its own computer hardware and literacy programme called Youth Learning, which initially launched in India and is now operating in 15 countries across the world.
One way that ICT has been shown to reduce learning disparities is if it plays a complementary role, serving as an additional resource for teachers and students. In India, computers were used to teach mathematics both as a substitute for regular teaching and during after-school programmes. The results showed that the approach did not improve learning when used as a replacement teacher, but did in the after-school programmes, and particularly for low achievers and older students. Similar findings were also found in Israel, in the small-scale Time to Know programme.
The potential of mobile technology as an educational tool is also steadily growing, where mobile phone technology in developing countries now accounts for four out of every five connections worldwide. In a recent report by the GSMA into m-learning, more than half of all young people surveyed in Ghana, India, Uganda and Morocco who had accessed the internet, had done so on a mobile device.
The combination of education and technology has been considered the main key to human progress. Education feeds technology, which in turn forms the basis for education. Technology has the potential to be a huge force for good as it will undoubtedly play an increasingly important part in millions of young people’s lives across the world.