Rural Poverty Design Challenge

by | Dec 11, 2019 | ICT4D |

It’s hard to imagine life with no connectivity while sitting in London, New York, or Jakarta. And yet you don’t have to travel far outside those cities to find places where reliable phone signal or broadband is still a dream. It’s hard to imagine life without a smartphone, when the one you have as a constant companion costs more than the annual income of some people.

When this is our context, our ‘normal’, yes it is hard to imagine a world without. And it makes sense to believe connectivity (mobile and internet) will be a reality for all soon. After all the growth has been fantastic thus far.

However, as six sigma and disease eradication has taught us, the last couple of percentage points takes more resources, more efforts, more dedication than the first 98%. And when the last 2% have limited ‘economic value’ to those investing the resources, then it is even slower.

So when we ‘go digital’ and build systems and processes which assume connectivity and smart devices, we are deciding to leave people out. And perhaps this is deemed necessary and appropriate, but then be up front about it. It’s hard to sell it as a solution for the most vulnerable or even for frontline humanitarian workers if it doesn’t work offline. Or at least have a method of working in offline environments.

And perhaps one day we will achieve true global connectivity for all and the cost of both devices and connectivity will be affordable for all. Perhaps this day is coming, but while we wait if we only design and build for connected environments, are we not contributing to or perpetuating the existing inequality?

Photo by Ben Cliff

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