Online accessibility should be a priority for all

Observatory: Thandizo Kawerama

People from all walks of life have had to make the switch to digital platforms to continue being productive during lockdown and beyond. This has dispelled the longstanding myth that technology and being internet savvy, was only for the youth and people in tech related fields. Being literate on digital platforms is in high demand. Gym sessions are being held via Zoom, concerts are being streamed on Instagram live, and court is back in session via Skype. Many have been able to adapt, but once again the less privileged have been left behind to struggle with lost opportunities due to lack of internet accessibility and computer illiteracy.

A growing demand for online services opens the doors for new opportunities, and with the vastness of the World Wide Web the opportunities are limitless. However, the online world comes with a whole new form of etiquette, language and trends that are constantly changing. Even those who are highly qualified, educated and influential struggle to keep up with Twitter fingers and word document to PDF conversions. The youth who are thought to spend most of their time online also have their fair share of problems in the digital world. Only those who are privileged enough to have a stable network, and constant electricity supply are awarded the various opportunities that come with being online.

For the most part, the youth have quickly learned the language that governs the internet. Many know the power of going viral and how to monopolise on being online simply by creating memes and tagging big names in cheeky tweets. However the internet is a big place. Not all attention is good attention and many have learned the hard way that the internet never forgets. Those who only recently have started creating their digital brands and introducing themselves to the online environment would not have to struggle, if they are taught beforehand basic skills that will help them navigate the digital world.

With the unemployment rate still very high, it is even more important for everyone to be equipped with skills specific to an online environment. Job applications are being posted online, face to face contact is being highly discouraged and job interviews are being held via zoom. It’s unfair that qualified individuals could be missing out on opportunities, because they do not have a stable internet connection or let alone not know how to use the digital platform to begin with.

COVID-19 forced Namibia to turn digital but there is still the challenge of making digital platforms accessible to all Namibians no matter the demographic. The truth of the matter is that the cloud of uncertainty brought by the pandemic will not be floating away any time soon. Online literacy and accessibility though not currently a life or death situation, will most certainly become more important as time goes by.

All Namibians deserve the opportunity to realise their potential, and making sure that everyone is both computer literate and capable of navigating the internet is an underestimated effort that could help us all in the future.

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