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Innovating beyond the internet; is digital learning and advocacy for the elite?

By Faith Masengo | May 29th 2020

Covid19 has tipped the scale on the importance of online interaction across all sectors of business and personal life. The 'thing' that was mostly referred to as a millennial way of life has now become the pinnacle of interaction.

The rejected stone has now become the saving grace of every relationship created whether professional or personal. As a communications practitioner, I still remember all the times I tried selling social media to clients and employers 101 times before they called it bluff and referred to it as a “young people’s thing.” Well, time has a way of revealing things.

With the need to social distance, a lot of the conversations that would have happened one on one are now happening online. A lot of learning is happening online and this is a forward alternative but what happens when internet connectivity is a luxury?

What happens if it’s not a sustainable way of empowerment? Does it mean that learning in under-served areas stops? Does it mean that the hardest to reach places become forgotten? Are we doing enough to ensure that connectivity is not only for the elite but equal for all?

Recently, I had a conversation with my mentor about this very question. I have always felt strongly about empowerment through education and advocacy being implemented equally for all.

I am from the school of thought that believes that all kids deserve a fair chance at life, not only those who score the highest marks. How I arrived at that conclusion is; until we are able to give every child an education system that is wholesome and able to cater to the different special needs and strengths of children, exams are not an accurate way of determining which child is better able than the other.

Likewise, the single act of speaking using online platforms in whichever form without putting as much effort into looking into what extent your audiences are digitally abled does not guarantee effective communication.

Maybe, the heal-all is to innovate beyond the internet. The need to prioritize hard to reach audiences becomes paramount to optimizing online learning and digital platforms.

Cluster delivery of communication/ learning initiatives through an accessible internet provision in multiple locations will suffice as an effective method too.

Unorthodox methods such as the use of art, music, and media to promote advocacy is another probable solution. Out-of-the-box thinking is the key to navigating these out of the ordinary Covid19 times.

What can we do to ensure that children, men, and women in underserved communities keep learning and keep getting empowered even when internet connectivity and the requisite technological infrastructure are a luxury?

While innovation in education is highly encouraged as a pragmatic way of exploring new ways of dispensing knowledge and helping learners develop their creativity and problem-solving skills, innovation as an approach needs to go beyond the digital and online platforms.

It should be about how creativity and transformative approaches can address daunting, interconnected challenges and involves a different way of looking at problems and solving them.

Key to note, the people, specifically those targeted by these innovations should remain the core focus of such actions. When dealing with the marginalized and vulnerable groups, context remains vital and any innovation must be pragmatic, appropriate, and meaningful for the target population, lest the innovative action leads to greater inequality and inefficacy.

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