Bridging the digital gap

Solving the divide in digital access and use is not an easy task. According to the 2016 World Development Report Digital Dividends, the majority of the world remains largely unaffected by the digital revolution. Only around 15 percent of the world population can afford access to broadband internet. Mobile phones, which reach almost four-fifths of the world’s people, provide the main form of internet access in developing countries. However, nearly 2 billion people do not own a mobile phone and nearly 60 percent of the world’s population has no access to the internet. The lack of connectivity remains the biggest technology challenge for most of the world. As much as we say that it is changing, the connectivity issue will remain for the years to come. Nevertheless, social media and digital technology are becoming increasingly relevant and beneficial to the development work of the small, local, non-profit organisations in Asia.

Furthermore, social media and digital technology are not only tools for advocacy, awareness, building constituency and fundraising but they help reach the vision of organisations. A trainer with a small, local, non-profit organisation in Pakistan who works with language documentation and language revitalisation shared his observations on how the vernacular media is now a big trend in social media in Pakistan. Many people now write posts and develop web pages in their own mother tongues. Some languages are moving from sustainable orality to developing due to the use of languages in social media such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and text messages. The use of social media and digital technology has provided a platform for documenting and revitalising languages, and for advocating for language vitality.

The use of social media and digital technology is, therefore, not anymore an option but a necessity. However, adopting a social media presence may be difficult for many small, local, non-profit organisations who do not have the necessary information technology and communication skills to use social media successfully. How do we maximise the benefits of social media while minimising its risk?

In the series of interviews I conducted among small, local, non-profit organisations in Asia, staff expressed interest in a training on how to use social media effectively. The following are some of the topics that they found helpful to include:

  • Visual content is becoming important on social media. To take full advantage of the social media platform and to spark more interest, adding images to text posts adds value. But how to take good photos, how to upload them easily on social media and how to effectively describe them?
  • Many people do not have time to read long texts. There are too many available information out there calling for the audience’s attention. How to effectively post short text of 140 characters that creates impact?
  • There are many social media platforms to choose from. Which is the right one for my organisation? How to use the different social media platforms effectively for advocacy, building constituency and for raising funds?
  • How to blog? According to Denskus and Papan, writing weblogs (blogs) is an important part of development discussion on the Internet. Denskus and Papan’s research found that development bloggers aim to have dialogue with their readers. However, though theoretically blogs are meant to be global in scope, blogs are predominantly used by a global elite of professionals engaged in development or students at universities. How can blogging be relevant for small, local, non-profit organisations who also would like to offer their insights and learning to the world?
  • Help in website development and management was also mentioned especially with websites developed in unfamiliar sites such as Joomla. The lack of human resource and having limited information technology skill affect the social media presence. Training on the job will be beneficial.
  • There are also local directors who are not utilising social media for personal use. This makes them suspicious of social media and are hesitant to engage with it. They also tend to shy away from online discussions even on topics that they are passionate about. How to make the leadership understand the benefits of social media?

The daily use of social media in organisations makes social media training important. The training should also extend to the communities they work with for a better and continuous engagement. Social media is, after all, a collaborative process.

So now, I’m ready to develop a training workshop in how to effectively use social media among small, local, non-profit organisations. I’ve developed and conducted many trainings before. I’m confident that I can do this but I need your help! Any resources out there to get me going?

 

References

2016 World Development Report: Digital Dividends. Available from: http://www.worldbank.org/en/publication/wdr2016.[assessed 2017-03-14] 

Denskus, T., Papan, A. 2013: Reflexive engagements: the international development blogging evolution and its challenges, Development in Practice 23: 435-447.

One Comment

  1. Hanna Rhodin

    A very interesting and relevant topic! Connectivity is definitely something that is being talked and written about. As I see it, it will continue to be all the more important and crucial for smaller NGOs to make their voices heard and to gain traction, especially amongst younger members of the public. I have worked in smaller organizations and based upon leadership, demographic, and target audience – it has been interesting to see how different organization prioritize a thing like language, for example. However, if those around you have no access to internet, is social media still as crucial? Your findings on what small local NGOs are looking for in social media training makes me think that they regularly have access to internet, making training an important support for the continuing development. Well written!

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