by Sunday Bitrus
Published on: Sep 18, 2006
Type: Opinions

The digital divide between the underserved areas of the world and the fully served areas of the world is a serious issue that calls for concern. Living in a community that is approximated to be lagging 500 years in terms of technological advancement leaves much to be desired. However, the effort of ITU in bridging this divide is quite soothing. People in some European and Asian countries will wonder at this lack of progress in the underserved regions of the world. Is it because there is either no will or mechanism to achieve and attain the status of being adequately served? Or is it that there must be a mechanism and assistance from institutions like ITU? I disagree and agree.

I agree because of ITU’s role so far.

I disagree because such bridge-building activities much have and include elements internal to it. Yes. For even the fully served areas were once unserved - whether with strictly internal elements or with a combination of the internal and the external - it was once unserved. For an underserved area to attain the minimal status, the following mechanisms should be considered.

The role of the government in any sphere is unequivocally important in providing service to the underserved area. If a government is not interested or focused in that direction, nothing tangible would be achieved. The service providers MUST dance to government tunes.

Here, it is important to say that an undemocratic government would always play the negative role. Examples in this regard can be seen in Nigeria before 1999 and the introduction of Mobile Phones, the Taliban in Afghanistan among others. Planting, watering and nourishing the seed of democratic governance, where the people can pursue such selfless needs, would enhance service provision in no small measures in these areas.

Service providers should also seek for best possible ways to incorporate the communities first before putting the key goal of profit making first. It might seem like putting the cart before the horse, but it is very crucial. Communities which are economically handicapped with no means of generating enough revenue to enjoy or have access to these services would always be underserved.

Fully serviced communities must also use their roles in the ITU and within the United Nations and European Union to vigorously pursue legislations that makes service providers resident in their home countries to as a matter of urgency, establish some branch and provide services in at least three underserved communities. The legislations should include that young people should be incorporated into the top echelon of planners, monitors and executors of such programmes. A young person’s interest and zeal in telecom is much more passionate than 5 elderly people put together. This is not to say that elderly people are senile, but their experience should be garnished with youthfulness. This I assume would give us the required result. An average young person would like to earn his/her living in these parts of the world so as to afford some of life’s basic necessities, and would hence readily accept training and support.

Young and creative people must be scouted for or involved and provided with an avenue like this one by the ITU that will help to develop, implement and/or monitor such commendable and realistic projects.

Side by side with efforts for fighting HIV/AIDS, Child labour, protecting democracy and supporting its structures, Sex Trafficking etc, the lack of support for service provision to the underserved areas is of same weight, if not more a meaningful fight. In this age, everything is intertwined. One cannot achieve total success without the other in place. It must be given a serious look at all levels.

Support should as well be provided for non-governmental organisations that will handle training and provide capacity building. However, if such training are attached with a caveat that the trainee would provide at least 3 percent of his total earning for the first 1 year to train others as well, or to carry out the training themselves, then we would have a network of human capacity building in this regard.

Agencies that cover this programme should be encumbered with a stringent yet flexible multi-level monitoring mechanism to ensure transparency and accountability of grants received. This would also provide the organizations a moral footing to seek for better legislations such as will provide a good ground for it to have a firm footing and enhance development.

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