Oral Statement to the 59th Session of the Commission for Social Development
Title: Connectivity, Affordability, and Digital Literacy: Closing the Digital Divide among the Local Farmers and Indigenous Communities
To be delivered by Maria Lourdes Santos
VIVAT International, a network of 12 faith-based organizations, Salesian Missions, Proclade Internazionale Onlus and Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary acknowledge the critical role and benefits of digital technology for accelerating information retrieval and scientific discovery while addressing the COVID-19 Pandemic. Schools have transitioned to online learning at home following the directives of governments on physical distancing. While many enjoy unlimited internet access and can afford to buy the latest digital devices, unfortunately, local farmers and indigenous peoples in several countries lack connectivity and cannot afford the high cost of electronic devices. Lack of digital literacy further aggravates their sense of vulnerability.
The local farmers and the indigenous communities of Ngaju and Ma’anyan Dayaks in Indonesia have no electricity. Access to the internet and digital knowledge and skills are limited which makes e-learning impossible. During this time of the Pandemic, they barely get information about the dangers of COVID-19.
Digital divide affects more than half of the world population. In Australia, for example, according to the 2019 Annual Australian Digital Inclusion Index, Indigenous Australians scored below the national average in the three areas of access, affordability, and digital ability. According to the 2019 Status Report of the Food and Agriculture Organization on digital technologies, 3.8 billion people remain offline and are disproportionately located in rural and remote areas.
We, therefore, call on the Member States to close the digital divide by committing to these key actions:
- Enact and implement policies for providing good internet access and make digital technology affordable to all people, especially those who are living in rural and remote areas.
- Offer training and opportunities to increase digital literacy in farmer and indigenous communities.
- Allocate resources for enabling the local farmers with small landholdings to share experience-based best practices.