Author: Sarah Kiden

Online, Offline and COVID-19: The Digital Divide

Online Education

A common enough narrative from Uganda and other countries will revolve around a friend I will call Akoth. Education has been one of the most important things for her and every member of her family has repeated over and over again that it is the only way to get out of poverty. Akoth has put in a lot of commitment in school but has had to balance school work and the never ending house chores.

However, with the COVID-19, this has been overwhelming – she has had to adjust to homestead chores – cleaning, cooking for an extended family, washing clothes, fetching water, etc. But the most challenging fact in this pandemic is that now she is unable to access the Internet for her online learning. At the end of the day, Akoth’s intelligence and commitment to education will be measured alongside those who have access to the Internet – those who have continued to access online resources during the lockdown. Her story is the reality of many girls in rural Uganda. In some policy discussion groups, the question “What can we do?” is followed by another question… now or after the pandemic?

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Rooted in Community

I finally landed at London Heathrow Airport, after a delayed flight from Barcelona, Spain, where I was attending the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) 63 meeting.  I navigated my way to the citizenM Hotel through the London Underground, at the witching hour of 01:03am. All I wanted to do was take a warm shower and get some rest. But then I saw an iPad next to my bed, with an interface showing instructions on how to “control” the features in my room – switch on the TV, adjust lights according to my mood, set the temperature, open/close the window blinds, set an alarm, play music and so much more. The iPad felt like the much needed “welcome home”; how could I say no? I was Citizen Sarah, Citizen 547.

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