03 November 2013

Why Children Need the Internet!

Given that you are reading this post, I can safely assume that you have a computer, laptop, tablet, smart phone, or some other device for accessing the internet. This means you are one of the 2.7 billion people who are online. Just under 60% of the world's population, however, does not have access to the internet!

I actually got the idea for this post because I am taking part in the NaBloPoMo challenge, to write a blog post each day in November. I read this post, on the yeah write site, about computers and technology, by another blogger Cynk, who is also taking part in NaBloPoMo. It made me think about how accustomed I am to using the internet. It is a part of my everyday life. For many others around the world, this is not so. Children who are not taught how to use computers, and the internet, will find it harder to get decent jobs as adults, in an increasingly interconnected, digital world. They cannot experience the benefits of having access to the internet.

Computers for the Children!

Yesterday, I blogged about a Homework Centre in the Eastern Cape in South Africa. They have a couple of computers there, and really want to teach the children how to use them, because they can see how useful such skills and knowledge will be for the children's future. They would like more computers. I am hoping that my charity, CHW, will be able to help with this in the future, or that I might be able to find someone else (either an individual or an organisation) who can help with donating computers to the Centre. This would not be the first time we, at CHW, have helped children's projects with computers. We raised funds to repair the computers at an education centre, run by the Atelier Sacelean Association, in Romania, and also raised the funds for a new classroom to be built for a school run by New Life Orphanage in Ghana. The new classroom became a computer lab. (The computers were donated by another organisation, but the room had to be built for the new lab!)

Computer Lab at New Life, in Ghana

The 'Digital Divide' and Children
The 'digital divide', ie the gap between those who have access to the internet and those who do not, is  a huge issue and one that will greatly impact a child's future opportunities in life. Often the 'digital divide' is looked at in international terms. Of all the people in the world who are not connected to the internet, 90% are in developing countries. Expense is a big problem. The founder of the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has said:

"...the majority of the world's people are still not online, usually because they can't afford to be... In Mozambique, for example, a recent study showed that using just one gigabyte of data can cost well over two months' wages for the average citizen. The result of high prices is a widening digital divide that slows progress in vital areas such as health, education and science..."

The problem is not just an international one though. Access to computers and the internet varies within parts of the same country, meaning some children will have access and some will not. The quality of their resources will vary too.

This article by Laura Dimon, brings up the point that New York's digital divide is holding young New Yorkers back. She shares a quote from Manhattan's Borough President, which states that over 75% of school facilities have a maximum download speed which is 100 times slower than the target speed in the National Broadband Plan. These students will not have a fast enough connection speed to have access to all the educational resources they need.

Crowding around the computers at the Atelier Sacelean Association, Romania

What can be done?

Whilst organisations such as A4AI and Internet.org are looking to get more people connected to the internet, there are things which everyone can do to help. If you have any computers or laptops that you no longer use, or if your office or college will be getting new equipment, it is possible to donate the old computers to certain charities.  These charities can refurbish the old computers, if necessary, and will then distribute them to schools, education centres or other children's projects. It would be best to try to look this up, to find a charity close to you where you could donate electronic equipment (see how useful the internet is!). As well as helping children, this is also an environmentally-friendly way to get rid of old equipment.

Here is a useful list of ten tips of things to do before donating an old computer.

Also, if anyone has any ideas on getting some computers or laptops to the Homework Centre in South Africa,  please let me know. I would really appreciate it!

Children at the Homework Centre, South Africa

Thank you for taking the time to read this post... I am grateful that I have a laptop and access to the internet and can do things like take part in NaBloPoMo! I just hope I can use all the resources I am lucky enough to have, to help children around the world to get online too, and to open up more opportunities for their futures.


  1. HI Catherine. Greetings form the grid! :) It's lovely to have such a strong feeling for a cause and I hope your efforts see big rewards. My daughter Chloe is in her fourth year of a Communications degree and when she graduates she hopes to bring attention to issues. She is concerned with animal issues, mainly ecological habitat preservation here in Canada and the brutality of shark finning. But I bet her focus will change as she gets out into the world after graduation. Hope you've had a lovely weekend and will have a terrific week ahead. :)

    1. Hi Veronica, thank you so much for your nice comment. It is great that your daughter is so concerned with animal issues! That is really important. I hope she is able to bring attention to the issues she cares about, once she graduates :) I hope you both have a great week!

  2. Hi Catherine!
    Great to be a columnite for NaBloPoMo! This is such an important issue, and even locally this can be a huge stumbling block for people! Obsolesence and forced hardware upgrades can really escarbate problems at home...To say nothing of the e-recycling/e-waste issues and scandals, and mineral wars all over the world.
    A super cool organization that's up and running all over the US and Canada is called Free Geek. Using volunteers they upcycle older computers and then upload them with open sourced software (which is free, and often kinder to older machines). Systems are then donated to volunteers and non-profit organizations in need! Free Geek then sells leftover and unusable computer parts for scrap, which it then uses to pay rent and employ a few staff. They also run workshops on programming! Check them out! http://wiki.freegeek.org/index.php/Free_Geek_Startups

    1. Hi, it is really nice to meet another NaBloPoMo blogger :) You are so right about the local issues, and also about the e-waste problems and mineral wars. Thank you for sharing the info about Free Geek! I looked at the link and they seem like a great organisation!
      I will go and check out your blog now too :)

  3. Great post and great cause! You should check out Beth Ann-- also on the YW grid for NaBloPoMo. She's an advocate for a great many causes-- and even donates something for each comment-- maybe you guys could ban together one month! http://bethannchiles.com/

    I loved the thoughts behind this post. Have you seen the Ted talks on Hole in the Wall education? :)

    1. Hi, thank you so much for your nice comment. I checked out Beth Ann's blog and it is great. I will leave her a comment.

      I hadn't seen the Ted talk on Hole in the Wall Education, but have watched it now (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks8D3WE-PbM). Thank you so much for telling me about it. I hadn't heard of Sugata Mitra before watching that video, and his work is fascinating!

      I will go and visit your blog now too. Really nice to meet you through YW and NaBloPoMo :)