TACOMA, Washington — The internet is a vital part of daily life for people in the United States. However, the internet is still far out of reach for millions worldwide. Addressing this gap is vital because providing internet service helps fight poverty.
The Importance of Internet Access
One innovation the Internet has provided is assistance in looking for jobs. Job hunting sites, hiring platforms and networking sites help thousands of people find work every day. These innovations have yet to burst onto the scene in impoverished areas. While many countries are slowly beginning to implement these services, internet service still has a long way to go before becoming a broadly embraced job-hunting tool in impoverished communities. One hurdle to realizing this potential in such communities is internet access itself.
Efforts to Provide Access to the Internet
Many organizations are working to bring internet service to low-income communities worldwide. One such example is the Internet for All initiative from the World Economic Forum. The Internet for All initiative focuses on providing internet access to the hardest to reach people via both public and private industry cooperation. It features entities such as the African Development Bank Group, Microsoft, Mastercard and the U.S. State Department.
According to the World Economic Forum, approximately 3.9 billion people do not have internet access, which is 52% of the world’s population. The effort to address this has already yielded results with programs in Rwanda, South Africa, Argentina and Jordan, increasing internet accessibility. This is significant as, in addition to internet connectivity leading to job opportunities, internet service helps create and improve digital skills that are growing more valuable in nearly every career field. Further investment into this initiative will continue to combat poverty and provide even more employment opportunities.
Along the same lines, the International Telecommunication Union, in partnership with UNESCO, has created the Broadband Commission for Digital Development. Much like the Internet for All Initiative, the Broadband Commission for Digital Development aims to provide broadband internet access to every country in need to assist in reaching development goals. Additionally, it markets the importance of providing internet access into foreign policy development. This helps ensure other countries commit to the task by demonstrating realistic methods of achieving it.
The Holistic Approach
While the importance of internet service is evident given the efforts to open it up to the world, it is only one part of the strategy to win the fight against global poverty. The Borgen Project interviewed Dr. Yasser Payne about how internet access can improve the lives of those in impoverished communities. Dr. Payne is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies at the University of Delaware. Dr. Payne’s work researching the methodology of Black and Brown populations has led him to become a leading expert in the field.
Upon discussing the use of the internet to improve job opportunity with The Borgen Project, Dr. Payne cast the following analysis: “If internet service, among a thousand other things[,] is to actualize in a poor community that is rocked by anything you can imagine in the past and now, then the more impactful analysis would be […] to look at things more holistically.”
This holistic approach needs to include more than just providing internet service; it needs to look at the experience of an impoverished person as a whole. This should include the “structural violence” that places people into poverty. People in impoverished communities do not approach technology the same way those in developed countries do. Therefore, in order to be successful in integrating internet service that allows job opportunities to flourish, it needs to adapt to the culture in which it is arriving.
According to Dr. Payne, “…technology is a very cultural experience. So, for somebody that lives that sort of way, that is convenient. If I am trapped in my reality, it is difficult to see that. The greatest apps or the greatest pieces of technology that target certain audiences understand the cultural identity of that audience.”
Broadening the Lens
By examining the life of impoverished people through their own lens and responding in kind, it will materialize more success with solving the lack of job opportunities. Internet access will act as a piece of that solution. Without looking at poverty in such a way, there’s the risk of a solution that, according to Dr. Payne, “socially reproduces the problem.” It is important to acknowledge the perspectives of those that are being helped to avoid failure of the effort.
Job opportunities for impoverished communities can improve with the right mindset and perspective. Listening and engaging on the level of those needing help is integral to the effort. That task paired with the right tools such as internet access and efforts from major entities and governments can jumpstart life-altering change.
– Domenic Scalora