Bridging the “Digital Divide” with World Summit Awards
Article by WSA national expert Sachi Wickramage
Even with all the advancements in technology, the world today is still on a “Digital Divide”. Although countless individuals and companies are working tremendously to bridge the digital divide, there is still a bigger gulf that’s untapped. With the existing inequitable access to digital resources between developed and developing countries, it is of utmost importance that the joint effort of the entire international community is achieved, in order to bridge digital divide.
Digital divide can be coined as a gap between the information rich and the information poor, underlining the reality that not only individuals but also companies and nations must have access to the latest technological advancements in order to enjoy the many benefits that globalization brings.
As a strong believer of, ‘one man can make a difference’, my contribution to narrowing the digital divide is through conceptualization of multiple mobile-first strategies that brings the world to a common platform. Having co-founded several mobile-first endeavours, my aim was to find a suitable platform to showcase these software solutions to a broader global audience. My efforts were recognized by World Summit Awards (WSA) as a result of this.
WSA aims to bridge this digital divide by connecting all ICT passionate individuals, social entrepreneurs, start-ups and digital innovators from around the world, through its highly democratic awarding platform. WSA is open to 178+ UN member countries, to showcase their cutting-edge examples on how ICT can have a positive impact on society.
The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) is a unique United Nations summit that began with the goal of achieving a shared commitment to building a people-centric, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society where everyone can create and share information. Therefore, World Summit Awards (WSA) was established to put into action, the goals of United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (UN WSIS).
WSA invites all its winners to an all-expenses paid extensive programme at the WSA Global Congress which consists of multiple trainings, knowledge sharing and brainstorming sessions which expands individuals’ mind-set to go back to their countries and share experiences with their societies.
My journey with WSA started when one of the mobile-first endeavours which I Co-Founded, became a winner in 2005.
I attended the WSA Global Congress in 2016 where I witnessed World Summit Award as a global awarding system which gives opportunities for the best local ICT products to be showcased at an international stage.
During this summit, the best problem solvers from around the world gathered under one roof and took part in interactive knowledge sharing sessions, smart discussion forums and various networking events. Eminent speakers took the stage and disseminated knowledge across various fields of expertise, providing thought provoking inspiration to all attendees. I admired the perfect planning and execution of each aspect of the summit, where WSA panel treated everyone like family. By just participating in WSA, one learns and grows more within few days, than would have in months.
Through my work and experience with WSA, I recognized the importance of capitalizing on 3 key ingredients to bridge the digital divide.
1. Information Accessibility
I see information accessibility as a very important starting point to bridging the digital divide. After all, we do live in the information age where access to information generates many opportunities for everyone in society. Despite the society we live in, people consume information in many forms to make decisions about their daily lives. This can range from actions such as being able to read and understand a train schedule to accessing synchronised personal medical records online. No longer should societal barriers of preconception, infrastructure, and inaccessible formats stand in the way of accessing and utilizing information in daily life.
2. Information Equity
Information inequities already exist in all societies, facilitating mostly the affluent to have access to better hardware, faster internet, that gives them better choices of quality information. In order to gain societal information equity, there should be a minimum level of information quality below which nobody falls. This means, within a community, everyone should have equitable access to information resources and opportunities. Equity implies a need for fairness and not necessarily equality; because at times, too much information will result in information overload where people wouldn’t know to make productive use of them. Therefore, it will be wise to focus on equitable availability of information which supports in justifiable distribution of gains and losses, and the entitlement of everyone to an acceptable quality standard of living.
3. Information Perception
Finally, how a society perceives information is also very important. The state-of-the-art technology available today brings information to our fingertips. This also gives the power to use the available information for good or evil. The floods of information that is out there if not understood wisely, can create a storm that no one wishes to see. Therefore, societal information perception is a key ingredient today. Focusing on the good, the information provided through the internet, has transformed the way we think and do things on a daily basis. It brings communities together, advocates peace, harmony and growth.
Countries today are attempting to build a connected sustainable ICT sector. We can do this only if all nations focus on a common perception on how information can help bridge the digital divide. This can be achieved by creating SMART content and innovative ICT applications.
Being part of WSA helps an individual, group or a company use these 3 ingredients and take few steps closer to bridging the Digital Divide.
It can be a Mobile App which promotes content creation for children’s education, aiming to reach a broader audience under Learning & Education sector, OR a cloud based Web Application, optimized to work on minimum bandwidth which lets people have access to curated news & information even on the slowest networks, allowing people in rural areas to not be left-out. This combines information accessibility, equity & perception assuring a narrowing of the gap in digital divide.
I believe and have already witnessed WSA being a global stage for this great cause of narrowing the Digital Divide.
As a Jury Member and the National Expert spearheading the WSA local call for Australia, I invite All and especially the Millennials, to embrace the newest technological advancements out there. Use technologies such as IoT & Smart Home Tech, AR & VR, Automation & Autonomy, Machine Learning & AI to contribute to bridge the digital divide effectively. By being a part of this technological revolution, I believe one day the world can enjoy information accessibility and perception, creating an equitably connected society.
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