The digital divide and COVID-19: Learnings from the Fight for Peace Alliance

[Photo credit: INDER Medellín]
 
22/06/2020 – With a membership of 118 community-based organisations spread across 17 countries, the Fight for Peace Alliance is a rich source of insight and knowledge exchange. Such exchange has, in turn, the power to enhance the work we all do in our local communities.

Part of Fight for Peace’s role in the Alliance is in facilitating exchange between member organisations around key topics, and compiling learnings that can be shared and implemented.

An example of this exchange occurred with a recent gathering of Fight for Peace Alliance organisations from Brazil, Colombia and Mexico to discuss how best to support communities with little or no internet access during the COVID-19 pandemic. This pressing issue is hampering the ability of many organisations to provide services to young people and their communities at an urgent time.

Organisations face a complex challenge in that while they work to provide safeguards and support within their communities, they are  hampered in reaching community members due to a lack of connectivity.

This most recent Alliance knowledge exchange has not only generated a series of observations and practical solutions to mitigate a lack of connectivity, but also helps start a vital conversation around the digital divide – something this pandemic has starkly highlighted and which holds back young people in many of the communities in which Fight for Peace Alliance members work.

A summary of the key takeaways and recommendations emerging from the exchange on connectivity can be found below, with a more detailed report available via the following links in English and Spanish.

If you are part of a Fight for Peace Alliance organisation and wish to add your thoughts, experiences and observations to this process we very much welcome this, and ask that you get in touch with us directly via email.

We would like to extend our special thanks to Utopia from México, INDER Medellín and Paz y Bien from Colombia and CONACREJE and ASCOPP from Brazil for sharing their thoughts and ideas and making this collaborative piece of work possible.

KEY TAKEAWAYS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

A number of ways to mitigate the current challenges around connectivity in communities were put forward in this gathering of organisations, in addition to reflections on the limits of the benefits of increased connectedness. Below is a brief summary of some of the key learnings and recommendations which emerged from the exchange: 

Merge your information or activities plan with the delivery of basics
Include information and activity resources – such as government guidelines, protective and templates for family games – as part of essential kits physically delivered to families.

People can multiply the reach of the organisation’s actions
Limited contact can have a multiplier effect. Packages delivered to families can include a request and instruction for the recipient to pass on information to other community or family members.

Return to traditional ways of doing things
Traditional means of communication in communities, such as radio, loudspeaker and leafleting, can be very effective in keeping the community informed and engaged.

Maximise available technologies 
Equipping youth and community leaders with good internet packages can support the wider distribution of information in the community, as well as creating a point of communication between organisations and communities.

Use this time to connect with the communities
New ways of reaching out to communities can increase awareness of and proximity to the local realities.

Respect the moment and slow the pace
In marginalised communities, residents are typically fighting longer term problems such as violence in addition to COVID-19. Organisations should continue to support their communities and refrain from adding to an already stressful moment by creating activities that may not be necessary.

Ask if connectivity what communities want
Find out about what it is the communities want and follow their rhythm – adapting to the communities instead of asking them to adapt to organisations’ ways. 

Go back to basics
This moment presents an opportunity to return to those conversations we stopped having, and those traditional games and activities that used to be vital for community development.