Two-thirds of school-age children lack Internet access in the world

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Distance education in Kenya UNICEF / BRIAN OTIENO (FILE photo) 4/22/2020

Some 1.3 billion children between the ages of three and 17, that is, two-thirds of school-age minors in the world, do not have access to the Internet in their homes, which is key to being able to follow distance education given the restrictions that can be adopted to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

The proportion is similar if the range of young people between 15 and 24 years old is observed, since 759 million of them, 63 percent of the total, do not have a connection at home, according to a joint report by the UN Fund for Children (UNICEF) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

The rate soars in western and central Africa, where there are 194 million children without Internet access, 95 percent of the total, while in southern Asia and eastern and southern Africa the figure is 88 percent. In Latin America and the Caribbean there are 89 million children without connectivity at home, 49 percent.

The executive director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, has assured that the data show, more than a “gap”, a “digital precipice” that prevents children and young people not only to connect at a given moment, but “to compete in the modern economy “.

“It isolates them from the world. And in the event of school closings, such as those currently suffered by millions of children due to COVID-19, it leads them to lose their education,” she warned. As of today, there are still almost 250 million children affected by school closures around the world.

The digital divide perpetuates inequality and, according to the UNICEF chief, “it is costing the future for the next generation,” especially when it comes to families in rural areas or in vulnerable situations. It is estimated that in the richest households, 58 percent of children have a connection at home, compared to 16 percent of poor households.

ITU Secretary Houlin Zhao has stressed that “connecting rural populations remains a great challenge”, as evidenced by the fact that while around 60 percent of children in urban areas do not have access to Internet, the data rises to three quarters in rural areas.

BEYOND THE CONNECTION
UNICEF and ITU recall in their report that, beyond the connection, there are other aggravating factors such as the lack of affordability and security of said connectivity and the deficient levels of digital knowledge of a high proportion of the population.

Furthermore, having a connection at home does not guarantee access due to the pressure of housework or work, the lack of sufficient devices, the limits imposed on girls, or a lack of understanding of how opportunities can be accessed. In Internet.

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