Will the gap of the digital divide be closed by the mobile phone?

The Digital Divide defines the difference between those who have access to technology and the internet and those who do not. Of the world’s population of about 7 billion, almost 70 per cent have no access to a PC or the internet. Projects that help to close this digital gap will help to create the basis for global sharing of knowledge and high quality education for all.

The annual report on health and education and results that was published by Norad(the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation) in December 2013 indicates progress in both health and education in recent years. At the same time, population growth in low-income countries is high, and the population of Africa is expected to double by 2050.

5 facts showing that EdTech is important for the future of global education:

1. No fewer than 250 million children can not read or write. These children represents 20 percent of all children in the world.

2. 130 million of the 250 million people who can neither read nor write have been trough at least four years of school.

3. Globaly there is the need for 12.6 million new teachers until 2020 to reach the goal of education for all. This is according to Unesco, based on current paradigm without extensive use of technology.

4. Teacher Salaries make up about 80 percent of education budgets in most countries.

EFA Global Monitoring Report 2015.

Overcoming these obstacles will therefore require considerable effort in order to ensure education for all, and it is here that I believe technology – and more specifically mobile applications and learning resources – can play an important role.

Global access to the digital commons

If we analyse the digital divide continent by continent, we can see that the vast majority of internet traffic is still between Europe and North America, while large parts of Asia and Africa are – literally – not on the web. Access to the internet will, in itself, facilitate knowledge for more people and give more equality of opportunity in many countries in the future.

Where access to the internet differs from other types of infrastructure is that we are less dependent on roads, factories or other buildings to bring it about. If we travel outside the major cities, in Africa for example, we find that many people already have mobile phones – even though their houses may have no direct access to electricity or clean water. To many Norwegians, this may appear to be a paradox, but for the inhabitants of these countries it is actually easier to obtain a mobile phone than a connection to power or water.

By 2025, there will be upwards of 4.7 Billion people online of which 75 percent will come from emerging economies.

As of November 2014, M-Pesa transactions for the first 11 months of 2014 were valued at KES. 2.1 trillion, a 28% increase from 2013, and almost half the value of the Kenyan GDP.

These numbers from Kenya on mobile payment are what I would call a forecast that when the digital divide is closed, it will come as a result of the uptake of mobile phones!