Looks like a coronavirus epidemic when you don’t have internet

They told him a deadly virus “like a deadly cough” had gripped the country and even hit the nearby town of Mikao. But he suspected it was too close to home. “I don’t know if that’s true,” said Montiel, 36, who is part of the country’s largest indigenous group, the Waiu.

When the Colombian government issued a nationwide lockdown in late April, she and her husband were advised to stay home with their three children, keep their distance from others, wash their hands and wear masks to avoid the virus, which has killed more than 365,000 people worldwide. People.

For Montelli, however, the stay-at-home order is his own death sentence

Before the lockdown, Angela would occasionally put the SIM card on top to use WhatsApp, but has not been able to recharge it since the lockdown. No internet connection, no way to “work remotely”. Angela weaves traditional thihuai waiu mochila bags but cannot sell them on the street under current restrictions.

For now, his family survives the emergency cash payment from the private company Mercy Corps. It is impossible for her children to continue studying from home without access to online school materials. As an update, they wait for phone calls from friends or family, who can bring the news. Otherwise they are in the dark.

“We don’t have TV, the internet or anything so we don’t know if it’s still going on, so obviously we can’t go out or hang out,” Montel said. “We’re in despair.”

According to UN estimates, Nearly half of the world – 46% – is not yet connected to the Internet. For these people, a lockdown means instant access to important public health information, Remote work opportunities, Online learning, telemedicine appointments, digital grocery delivery, live-stream religious services – weddings and even funerals – as well as countless other ways in which we are increasingly living our lives online.

Governments around the world have pledged to provide universal access by 2020, but the digital divide is still deepening and widening the gap even offline.

People in poorer areas are less likely to connect, as are women, the elderly and those living in remote or rural areas, and in many cases, the connection can be constant – many have lost access due to the closure of offices, schools or public spaces, libraries and cafes. .

“We’ve always said that about 3.5 billion people aren’t connected, but we know more now, because most people who used to be connected in their workplaces and other public spaces no longer have this access,” said Eleanor Sarpong, deputy director. Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4 AI).

“Covid-19 has shown that there is such a big division, and it actually came as a shock to some governments. When they told their employees to work from home … they didn’t do much.”

Sarpong is hopeful that the crisis will go through long-term barriers to Internet access – from regulatory barriers to lack of political will and lack of data saving – to making the world more connected.

At the initiative of the World Wide Web Foundation, founded by Tim Berners-Lee, A4 AI recently shared a portion of policy recommendations, urging governments, agencies and civil society to take urgent steps to bring online as much time as possible during an epidemic. One of their immediate recommendations is: the removal of consumer taxes on Internet services; Cut data charges for public websites; Provide affordable data packages; Broadband allowance expansion; And roll out free public wifi infrastructure. Some are already taking this step.

“The government should look at internet access, not as a luxury, but as a way to transform their economy … I think it’s a wake-up call for them,” Sarpong said.

A digital gender gap

We know that digital technologies have changed lives rapidly but not everyone is benefiting equally and many are lagging behind due to lack of infrastructure, literacy and training.

Across the least developed countries of the world, right 19% of people are online. Men are 21% more likely than women to be connected – and the gender gap is only widening.

In India, the aggressive approach to digitization has taken most of the government’s benefits online – from rations to pensions. Even before the epidemic, half of the country’s poorest people were dependent on digital despite being offline.

The epidemic has only exacerbated the situation.

When the crisis hit and 1.3 billion people in India were brought under lockdown, the ground of the country’s informal economy became shaky. So when the government announces direct cash transfers for vulnerable women, widows, senior citizens and the disabled for three months from April 1, it is welcome news, however, stuck at home without a smartphone, with many paying between Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 (6 6 to 13). Couldn’t access.
People wait outside a bank during a lockdown in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India on April 9th.

A B5-year-old widow living in a remote village in Rajasthan could not travel five miles to a nearby town to withdraw government cash and had no way to access government funds online, so she quickly found herself at home without any food.

Unsettled, Bai runs a digital service shop in his village and ends up at the door of Ombati Prajapati. “He was the only one who helped me.”

Butterflies are among the 10,000 “Suchnaprenners” or digital entrepreneurs who have been trained and supported. Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF), A New Delhi based NGO in rural areas of the country. Within Lockdown, they are helping to provide much-needed digital services, including remote banking, enabling people like Bai to withdraw cash using mobile, biometric ATMs. They are even helping to prevent misinformation.

Butterflies, 227-year-old Butterflies, said, “It’s just because of the internet that I want to see what’s happening and tell others that they should wash their hands regularly with soap, use sanitizer, wear masks.” Help any of these people [if I had not learned how to use the internet]. I couldn’t help myself. “

Osama Manzar, a social entrepreneur and founder of DEF, says their work training like butterflies has shown how important it is to have digital infrastructure up to the last mile – especially during a disaster.

“Connection and access to the Internet must be part of basic human rights. It must be considered during epidemics and disasters, just as you provide access to food or water, there must be a way to provide access to information,” said Manzar.

Problems for rich countries too

Digital segmentation has long been considered a development issue. But the epidemic highlights that even rich countries have been hit by digital deprivation.

According to Pew’s research, more than four out of ten low-income Americans do not have access to broadband services. And in the UK, 1.9 million households do not have access to the Internet, while a few million more rely on services that let you go as an online paycheck.

“Sometimes people talk about Covid-19 as a great leveler. But in reality, the way people are feeling the lockdown is not the same at all,” said CEO Helen Milner. Good Things Foundation, A UK charity is working with the government to get more people online.
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“For many, digital exclusion is just an extension of the social exclusion they are facing and poverty is certainly a part of it.”

The British government has recently launched a number of initiatives to help try and tackle digital boycotts. The projects include a new campaign, DevicesDotNow, Which asks businesses to donate devices, SIMs and mobile hotspots. The Good Things Foundation is helping to provide devices and training to people in need. So far they have given about 2,000 tablets
Among the recipients was Annette Addison, who lives alone in a flat in Birmingham, central England, and uses a wheelchair to get around. Before the lockdown, he would go to his local community center to access the internet and get help to pay for his disability. But without a smartphone, he said he felt isolated and in the dark about the status of his convenience.

“I wasn’t coping at all. I was very lonely and frustrated when the lockdown started, but since I had my tablet … I can talk to my grandchildren or my daughter when I feel lonely.” Was, because they’re always online. “

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On May 1, Addison turned 60 years old. He celebrated with his grandchildren via a video chat on his new iPad – the same iPad he now uses to test the portal for its benefits. And she recently signed up for a dating site. “I feel like a teenager,” he said.

However, as the government seeks to roll out digital services, the question remains: who gets a device and who doesn’t?

Hafsha Sheikh, founder SmartLyte, The digital skills center that delivered the device to Addison, is a question that hunts him down.

“This device is not for instant assistance during the cove, but for parents and families, to open the gateway to aspirations and opportunities. There are currently 1,500 more on the waiting list.

“The biggest challenge is, who do I choose?”

CNN’s Swati Gupta and Jack Guy contributed to this report.

About the author: Dale Freeman

Typical organizer. Pop culture fanatic. Wannabe entrepreneur. Creator. Beer nerd.

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