For rural households across the country, going digital is easier said than done
The pandemic has made one thing clear: We must digitalize, or be left behind.
Schools and universities have gone digital with their educational models in unprecedented ways, and offices have been forced to work from home, relying largely on email, smartphone apps, and teleconferencing software such as Zoom.
But while beating the drum for digital is all well and good, to do it right, we must first acknowledge a cold, hard reality -- for rural households across the country, going digital is easier said than done.
A recent study conducted by the Brac Institute of Governance and Development surveyed some 6,500 rural households across the country, and found that although close to all (96%) the households did have a mobile phone, approximately half of the households did not have a personal computer or the internet.
This shows that while we are going digital in leaps and bounds in many sectors in the country, digitalization has not been even. Rural households are still lagging behind, not only in need of computers and internet access, but also basic digital literacy.
Needless to say, without digital literacy and internet access, this segment of the population will not be able to reap the benefits of increased digitalization fully. While the vast majority of people are able to send and receive rudimentary SMS messages, they are lagging behind when it comes to email, or using search engines to find information.
A two-pronged approach, then, is required. A simple and comprehensive digital education is needed alongside greater access to the internet in our rural areas. Access without knowhow will not be very effective -- it is unfair to expect people who have never used a computer before to jump into a digital Bangladesh overnight.