How Universal Acceptance will facilitate Digital Inclusion in Africa

Universal Acceptance (UA) is a fundamental requirement for a truly multilingual and digitally inclusive Internet. UA ensures that all domain names, including long new top-level domains (TLDs) and Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), and email addresses are treated equally and can be used by all Internet-enabled applications, devices, and systems. Technically, they must accept, validate, store, process, and display all domain names equally, consistently, and correctly.

Digital inclusion is a framework for assessing and considering the readiness of communities to provide access to opportunities in a digital age. “Digital inclusion” has been articulated specifically to address issues of opportunity, access, knowledge, and skill. Digital technology has opened new domains of exclusion and privilege for some, leaving some populations isolated from the vast digital realm. Success in the increasingly digitized social and economic realms requires a comprehensive approach to fostering inclusion. Digital inclusion brings together among others,digital literacy in ways that promote success for communities and individuals trying to navigate and participate in the digital realm. 

Africa has a population of about 1.3 Billion people according to woldometer.info website. As of 31 december 2019 the number of Internet users stood at about 526 Million people, according to Internet World Stats [3]. With the adoption of Universal Acceptance this number will grow immensely hence reaching more people. 

Digital inclusion has three broad facets: access, adoption, and application. These facets show the ultimate goal of creating digitally inclusive communities.

  • Access. Language is a limiting factor to the access of the Internet. 95% of the Internet is in english, while most of the population does not speak english. Does the language you speak online matter? The unprecedented ability to communicate and access information are all promises woven into the big sell of the Internet connection. But how different is your experience if your mother tongue, for example, is Swahili or Luganda rather than English? Language profoundly affects your experience of the Internet. It guides who you speak to on social media and often how you behave in these communities. It determines how much – if any – information you can access on Wikipedia. “The Web does not just connect machines, it connects people,” said Tim Berners-Lee

Language is just as important to building human connections online as it is offline: it forms the basis of how users identify with each other, the lines on which exclusion and inclusion are often drawn, and the boundaries within which communities grow around common interests.

  • Adoption. Lack of local language content limits Africa’s Internet adoption. Literacy levels in the world population older than 15 years. 86% are literate. This interactive map shows how literacy rates vary between countries around the world. In many countries more than 95% have basic literacy skills. Literacy skills of the majority of the population is a modern achievement as we show below. Globally however, large inequalities remain, notably between sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of the world. In Burkina Faso, Niger and South Sudan – the African countries at the bottom of the rank – literacy rates are still below 30%.
  • Application:The Internet facilitates economic and workforce development, education, health care, public safety and emergency services, civic engagement, and social connections.  Universal Acceptance will also facilitate the increase in content creation in local languages. 

In order to achieve these goals, Universal Acceptance as a key driver to promote digital will work in the  in three significant ways:

  • Promoting awareness of Universal Acceptance readiness among key stakeholders like tech-enablers. Software application developers. 
  • By providing access to a range of Universal Acceptance Readiness tools to their communities.
  • By providing Universal Acceptance services that assist individuals navigate, understand, evaluate, and create UA Ready Systems, Applications and Software. 

References

  1. http://labs.theguardian.com/digital-language-divide/
  2. https://digitalinclusion.umd.edu/content/what-digital-inclusion
  3. https://www.internetworldstats.com/stats1.htm