Despite being a necessity, hopping online is not something that everyone has access to.
It is hard to imagine doing anything without the internet today, especially since the world was hit by a pandemic. However, in a world where 37% of the global population has never had access to the internet, the reality of who gets to make the most of the internet is heavily skewed in the favor of the developed world. This has caused the digital divide, a gap between those who have access to the internet and those who don’t. This divide exists not only between developed and developing countries but also between urban and rural populations as well as between men and women.
The digital divide is caused by two key factors, a lack of physical infrastructure needed to access the internet and a dearth of digital literacy (the ability to find evaluate and communicate information through the internet) to use the internet to its full potential. To address the disparities caused by a lack of digital access, here are some startups that have risen to the challenge of educating people on how to make the most of the internet.
One of the concerns with a lack of digital literacy is that it worsens the future generation’s chances of finding employment. This is where the Singapore-based startup Jules comes in. Jules is an Edtech company that trains children between the ages of four to eight in computational thinking. The company runs a “School of Fish” curriculum where children are taught digital skills, like programming, animation and game design expertise through games and animated storytelling. Jules is currently working with over 200 preschools in Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and China.
Ruangguru is an Indonesia-based informational technology startup that collaborated with the country’s Ministry of Communication and Informatics (Kominfo) to create Indonesia’s Digital Literacy Space Program in 2021. Ruangguru provides highly personalized educational content for students right from kindergarten to 12th grade. To make the content engaging and interactive for students, Ruangguru uses gamified learning and animated characters. As a part of the Digital Literacy Space Program, the company has created content that covers digital security, digital ethics and digital culture. The program is expected to train 50 million students by 2024.
Lumen is a Kenya-based company that helps students acquire practical digital skills. The company provides project-based learning experiences to students in key digital skills, like word processing and Microsoft Excel. To achieve this, Lumen runs Lumen Labs in rural Kenya, where students collect and analyze data from their communities and, in the process, learn how to effectively use computers. Lumen uses the data collected by the students and supplies it to its clients in the development sector, which, in turn, improves the quality of life experienced by the students and their families.
Rural Kenya suffers from regular power outages, making it harder for children to get adequate access to computers. To solve this problem, Kenyan tech startup BRCK created the Kio Kits. A Kio Kit is a digital education toolbox that consists of 40 tablets that come loaded with educational content and a WiFi hotspot. The tablets are all packed into a case that facilitates portable charging, which can be powered with both traditional and solar power. The Kio tablets have been made to handle harsh conditions. They are dust-proof, water-resistant and drop-proof for up to 70 cm.
Gaptain is a Spain-based startup that is working towards educating students and their families on digital technology. The company understands that entering the digital realm comes with a fair share of security risks. Hence, it works toward training students on how to protect themselves online. The startup designs personalized programs for individual students based on their digital device usage. The programs use video games to teach students the specific security risks they might encounter online. The company also regularly audits its programs to track how effective they are in ensuring digital safety.
The main objective of all these startups is to create a level playing field for the future generation. They train students in how to leverage technology to increase their employability. Besides picking up skills, these startups also help students get access to the vast resources of information that the internet has to offer, for work, academics and even socializing. The importance of digital access cannot be stressed enough, particularly at a time when we are witnessing the growth of the metaverse and Web 3.0. Suffice to say, that entrepreneurship and innovation in reducing the digital divide will continue to increase as the digital realm keeps on expanding and becoming increasingly connected with our daily lives.
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