As mentioned in a previous post, currently I think about digital literacy having at least three parts:
- Data Protection/Privacy/Security/Consent etc.
- New Operating models
So when two colleagues came to me asking if the idea of having an ‘out of the box’ offline internet solution could be of use, I used the three points and a bit of creativity to talk about possibilities.
First off, there are lots of out-of-the-box offline internet solutions available, so it is important to evaluate the choices and not go think there is only one option. And again, the technology is the easy part, the other bits around it (process, people, culture, model, etc.) are the tougher parts.
Secondly, we talked about a specific context: the response in Uganda to South Sudanese refugees. This gave us a framework to get into details. Sometimes blue sky thinking is valuable, but sometimes putting constraints around an idea is what is needed to make it flourish
‘in-the-box thinking can be just as valuable as out-of-the-box thinking”
Third, we know in the Uganda response there is a challenge for NGOs to hire local staff with basic computer/digital skills; many who have been hired have never used a computer before. We also know digital skills are valuable not just for working at a NGO, but for many other jobs too.
So we starting putting it together. The ‘traditional’ approach would be for each aid agencies to run their own in-house training programme for their staff to build the basic computer skills. However, we know the challenge of hiring digitally literate staff is not a single agency problem, but rather a problem for all agencies. So we could do things differently.
We could stay fairly traditional by designing a project as a consortium to train newly hired staff across all agencies.
But we could go further. We could take an approach like General Assembly or CodeAcademy where we design a project that is like a little school for anyone in the local community for them to learn digital skills and then help the graduates find jobs.
We could go further yet and instead of setting up the school ourselves, we could find a training academy in Kampala who already is building digital skills and partner with them to set up a satellite school in area of Uganda we are working. We could de-risk the expansion for the entrepreneur by guaranteeing certain levels of students for a period of time.
A step further would be add additional courses around digital skills to help establish local businesses, access to finance (perhaps micro-finance), or even facilitate connections with global outfits like Samasource, etc.
Digital literacy is a challenge, but can also be an opportunity.