How does a coronavirus pandemic look when you don’t have the Internet

They told him that a deadly virus was holding the country “like a whooping cough” and even hit the nearby city of Maicao. But he suspected he was very close to home. “I don’t know if this is true,” said Montiel, 38, part of the country’s largest indigenous group, Wayuu.

When the Colombian government held a nationwide crash in late April, she and her husband were advised to stay home with their three children, stay away from other people, wash their hands, and wear masks to prevent the virus that killed more. 365,000 people worldwide.

However, for Montiels, the order to stay at home is his own death sentence.

Before locking it, Angela occasionally fills a SIM card to use WhatsApp, but since locking it can’t recharge. Without an Internet connection, there is no way to “work remotely”. Angela knits traditional Wayuu mochila bags but cannot sell them on the street under current restrictions.

For now, his family is getting rid of the immediate cash payments of the nonprofit Mercy Corps. It is impossible for children to continue their education without accessing school materials online. As for the updates, they expect phone calls from friends or family who can bring news. Otherwise, they are in the dark.

“We don’t know if it still continues or will continue because we don’t have a television, internet, or anything else,” said Montiel.

A family listens to one hour of radio lessons from their home in Funza, Colombia, without an internet connection.
By UN forecastsAlmost half of the global population – 46% – is still not connected to the Internet. For these people, deadlock means missing instant access to important public health information, distance working opportunities, online learning, telemedicine appointments, digital grocery deliveries, live streaming religious services – weddings and even funerals – and countless other ways we continue to live our online lives more and more.

Governments around the world have committed to universal access by 2020, but the digital divide is still moving deep and expanding inequalities offline.

People in poor areas, such as women, the elderly and those living in remote or rural areas, are less likely to be interconnected. And in most cases, the connection may be slow – the closure of offices, schools, or public spaces such as libraries and cafes has cut off access for many.

“We have said that there are about 3.5 billion people who are not always connected, but now we know more because many people who used to be connected to workplaces and other public spaces no longer have that access,” he said. Affordable Internet Alliance (A4AI).

“Covid-19 showed such a big split, and this was actually a shock for some governments. When they asked their employees to go from home to work … many couldn’t.”

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Sarpong hopes the crisis will connect more of the long-standing Internet access – from political will to regulatory barriers and data affordability – to make the world more connected.

A4AI, an initiative of the World Wide Web Foundation founded by Tim Berners-Lee, recently urged governments, companies and civil society to take urgent measures to bring as many people online as possible during the pandemic. Urgent advice includes: removing consumer taxes from internet services; reduce data charges for public websites; providing affordable data packages; broadening of broadband allowances; and spread the free public wifi infrastructure. Some are already taking these steps.

“Governments need to see internet access not as a luxury but as a facilitator that can transform their economies … I think this is a wake-up call for them,” Sarpong said. Said.

Digital gender difference

Digital technologies have changed life as we know it. But not everyone benefits equally, and many are lagging behind because of infrastructure, literacy and lack of education.

In the least developed countries of the world, 19% of people are online. Men are 21% more likely than women to connect, and this gender gap is only increasing.

In India, an aggressive approach to digitalization has carried most of the government benefits from rations to pensions. Even before the outbreak, even though half the population was offline, the poorest people in the country were dependent on digital.

The outbreak only increased the irony of this situation.

When the crisis erupted and India’s 1.3 billion people were locked up, the country’s informal economy stopped screaming. This was good news when the government announced that it would send direct cash transfers to vulnerable women, widows, the elderly and the disabled for three months from April 1. However, many who were stuck at home without smartphones could not access 500 to 1,000 rupees ($ 6 to $ 13) in aid.
People wait outside a bank while locking on April 9 in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India.

Lal Bai, a 65-year-old widow who lives in a remote village in Rajasthan, could not walk five kilometers to the nearest town to withdraw the state money, and there was no way to access state funds online. without having food at home.

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The miserable Bai came to the door of Ombati Prajapati, who runs a digital services store in his village. “He was the only one to help me.”

Prajapati is among 10,000 “soochnapreneur” or digital entrepreneurs trained and supported by Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF)A New Delhi-based NGO in the rural areas of the country. In the middle of the crash, they help provide basic digital services, including remote banking, which allows people like Bai to withdraw cash using a mobile, biometric ATM. And they even help fight false information.

“I can only see what is going on thanks to the internet, and say to others that they should regularly wash their hands with soap, use disinfectants, wear masks,” Prajapati said. “He said. Help any of these people [if I had not learned how to use the internet]. I couldn’t even help myself. “

Osama Manzar, social entrepreneur and founder of DEF, says how important it is for business education women like Prajapati to reach the digital mileage, especially during a disaster.

“Connection and access to the Internet should be a part of basic human rights. In the event of an epidemic and disaster, just like you have access to food or water, there must be a way to access data,” said Manzar.

A problem for rich countries

The digital divide has long been considered a development issue. However, the pandemic stressed that rich countries are also affected by digital deprivation.

More than four of the 10 low-income households in America cannot access broadband services, according to research by Pew. In the UK, 1.9 million households do not have internet access, and tens of millions of people rely on pay-as-you-go services.

“Sometimes they talk about Covid-19 as a great referee. But in fact, it’s not at all equal for people to experience the crash,” he said. Good Things Foundationis a British charity working with the government to get more people online.
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“Digital exclusion is just an extension of the social exclusion they are facing, and poverty is definitely part of it.”

The British government has recently launched a series of initiatives to help tackle digital exclusion. There is a new campaign between the schemes, devicesdotnowIt asks businesses to donate devices, sims, and mobile hotspots. The Good Things Foundation helps deliver devices and training to those in need. So far they have given about 2,000 tablets
Among the buyers was Annette Addison, who lived alone in an apartment in the city of Birmingham in the center of England and used a wheelchair to walk around. Before she was locked up, she would go to the local community center to access the internet and get help with disability payments. But without a smartphone, he says, he feels isolated and in the dark about the state of his benefits.

“I was never coping. I was very lonely and overwhelmed when the lock started, but since I took the tablet … I can talk to my grandchildren or daughter when I feel lonely. I’ve always been in contact with them because they’re always online.”

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

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However, as governments try to offer digital services to the best, the question remains: Who buys a device and who doesn’t?

Hafsha Shaikh, founder smartlyt toThe digital skills center that deployed the device to Addison said it was a question that bothered him.

“This device is not only instant support during Covid, it is also about opening the door to requests and opportunities for parents and families,” said Shaikh. Said. Currently there are 1,500 more on the waiting list.

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

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

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About the Author: Abbott Hopkins

Analyst. Amateur problem solver. Wannabe internet expert. Coffee geek. Tv guru. Award-winning communicator. Food nerd.

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