Grave divide in times of virtual learning
Two-thirds of school-age children around the world have no internet at home, according to a joint report by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
An estimated 1.3 billion children aged 3 to 17 do not have an internet connection at home and a similar trend expands towards the youth, where 63 per cent of people aged 15 to 24 are removed from the internet at home.
UNICEF Chief Henrietta Fore termed this disparity a “digital canyon”, rather than a mere “digital gap”. A lack of internet connectivity prevents the youth from competing in the modern economy and isolates them from the rest of the world, she said. Fore went on to say that in an age where the world is learning virtually, this issue can cost the next generation their future.
The report clarified that even before the pandemic, this digital divide was deepening inequality and children from rural or low-income countries were falling behind their peers, with little chance to catch up.
Nine out of 10 children in wealthy countries have internet access at home, the same facility is available to less than 1 child out of 20 school-age children in low-income countries.
ITU chief Houlin Zhao has also emphasised on the challenge of connecting people in rural areas to the internet.
In addition to income and location, the inequality also stems from gender. Globally, 55 per cent men and 48 per cent women were using the internet in 2019, but this statistic is far more distinct in low-income countries like Africa, where internet connectivity is 37 per cent for men and only 20 per cent for women, according to ITU data.
Click here to read the complete report, How many children and young people have internet access at home?
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