EDITORIAL: Rwanda leads Africa in using ICT; now let’s invest in digital literacy

Saturday September 14 2019

lab

Young Rwandan entrepreneurs in ICT develop software at the K-Lab. skills including how to use register online and upload documents digitally. PHOTO | FILE 

RWANDA TODAY
By RWANDA TODAY
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Rwanda is currently leading Africa in the implementation of e-governance, which is the use of information, communications and technology (ICTs) to deliver government services to citizens and businesses in an efficient manner.

Today, many Rwandans are increasingly accessing government services online through Irembo which is helping to cut red tape, forgery and corruption among others. Yet we still have many ordinary citizens who are unable to use the platform, pushing them into extra costs as they have to pay agents to assist them.

However to effectively utilise the platform requires some level of digital literacy. Digital literacy isn’t just about knowing how to use technology. It is about navigating and communicating through different digital environments.

You need a certain level of digital literacy to turn a computer on for example, but require different skills to locate and complete an online application.

The extent to which you participate in different aspects of the digital world is often shaped by your personal need for the information and the opportunities that it provides.

Unfortunately, we still have many adults who cannot read or write a simple sentence. So, for them, navigating digital platforms is extremely difficult if not impossible.

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It is important to understand that even digital natives who know how to send a text and post to social media are not considered “digitally literate” by any means.

While one may be adept at using digital tools, their understanding of what these tools can do is often limited.

This is why we still have many cases of people with mobile phones and laptops but are still unable to use Irembo independently.

Digital literacy encompasses so much more. For example, a user must have specific skills when reading online text that may contain embedded resources such as hyperlinks that require one to make a choice.

There is a need to intensify digital literacy campaigns to equip more Rwandans will basic skills including how to use register online and upload documents digitally. Anyone who is digitally literate knows how to use digital platforms.

However, perhaps more importantly, it is imperative that Rwanda Online fixes issues around connectivity and invests more resources in making the platform more user-friendly.

Improving user experience would greatly help to increase independent access to the platform which could save money and time.

Digital literacy doesn’t require that one become an expert, but it does require that they understand the digital tools that can unlock and improve their user potential.

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