December 23, 2020

Overcoming Digital Illiteracy: A Toolkit for Training People in Basic Mobile Internet Skills

The previous post focuses on GSMA's annual report on the state of mobile internet connectivity with a particular focus on low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Two of the report's key findings include an "awareness of mobile internet is increasing but is far from universal" and "a lack of literacy and digital skills persists as the main barrier to use among mobile users who are aware of mobile internet in LMICs surveyed." The latter point was reported "as the top barrier by a third of respondents, followed by affordability." While predictions of increased use of mobile phones in LMICs are encouraging, the benefits these devices bring to the user, like any tool, can be maximized only if they possess certain skills. Fortunately, with support by the Department for International Development (DFID), a government department of the United Kingdom that has since been replaced by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), the GSMA created a toolkit for training people in basic mobile internet skills.

"Today there is still a 'usage gap' of 3.4 billion people who have access to mobile broadband coverage, but are either unable or unwilling to use it," the GSMA explains. What is more, "GSMA research has consistently shown that low levels of basic digital literacy are one of the main barriers to mobile internet adoption. To address this, in 2016 the GSMA Connected Society program – with financial support from DFID – developed the Mobile Internet Skills Training Toolkit (MISTT), a set of resources to promote digital literacy, help people use the internet more safely on their mobile and ensure they have the skills required for a digital future."

Designed for mobile network operators, non-governmental organizations, development organizations, and governments who want to provide training to improve people's basic knowledge and understanding of the mobile internet, the MISTT uses a 'train the trainer' approach and consists of short lessons in a PDF format that can be easily adapted to local needs and languages. Available in Bengali, English, FrenchHindiKinyarwanda, and Swahili, the guide serves as a tool for giving "trainers what they need to demonstrate the value and the functionality of the internet on mobile phones. As a result, trainees will be equipped with a deeper understanding of what they can use the internet for and the basic skills needed to access and use it. We believe that this will lead to increased awareness and use of the life enhancing services that the mobile internet has to offer."

Moreover, "The training presented in this toolkit, targets people with little or no mobile internet skills. It aims to teach those who want to learn what the mobile internet is and how to communicate and search online. This toolkit is not suitable for people with no experience of using mobile phones, and doesn't cover basic functions such as making calls or sending SMS. Similarly, it is not designed for those who are already familiar with the mobile internet."

Among the 12 individual video modules produced in English is one that provides an introduction to the internet.

I am very pleased to see a video module focusing on online safety.

And another video module focuses on mobile money, which is quickly becoming an essential service for individuals as well as micro, small and medium enterprises.

I concur with the guide's assertion that "[m]obile phones are much more than just a tool for making calls. Increasingly they are the primary way people across the world access the internet. Whilst the internet can provide a wide range of benefits to the user, it requires specific skills and knowledge to use a mobile phone effectively. This means that people who lack the skills and understanding are unable to access these life enhancing services."

What are your thoughts about GSMA's Mobile Internet Skills Training Toolkit?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

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