Closing the Digital Divide
At the core of CHOICE Humanitarian’s work is the belief that everyone should have the option and means to live in peace, prosperity, and freedom. To achieve this vision, CHOICE focuses on the establishment and improvement of systems that generate alternatives, options, and opportunities for rural communities living in devastating poverty. Technology accelerates robust systems changes, but many lack the infrastructure necessary for this to occur. Known as the “digital divide,” nearly half the world’s population—most of them women—lack access to digital technology and are therefore disconnected from opportunities to build capacity, improve productivity, and progress (Mohammed 2021). Indeed, the digital divide is the new face of inequality (Mohammed 2021). The pandemic exacerbated the need to bridge this divide; for instance, 1.6 billion students experienced educational interruption in 2020, and nearly 826 million students without computer access were forced to pause, if not entirely end, their education (Li 2021).
Global Technological Impact
The digital divide is growing rapidly, but CHOICE is determined to close the gap. Through utilization of appropriate technology and collaboration with tech professionals, CHOICE has made strides to connect communities to technological infrastructure and resources to accelerate progress. The initiatives we’ve implemented to provide access to necessary technology in rural communities include:
- The construction, equipment, and operation of computer labs in rural Bolivia
- The installation of home solar panels to provide a reliable source of electricity to rural communities in Guatemala
- Our collaboration with Agros, a Peruvian tech startup to create digital agricultural identities and better measurement and evaluation practices in rural Peru
- Operation and maintenance of aquaponics sites to provide a reliable source of produce to rural communities in Mexico
- Development of a fully digital entrepreneurship training course for students in rural Ecuador
- Our partnership with Yehu Microfinance Trust, a provider of financial services to the socio-economically marginalized, to establish digital banking opportunities for communities in rural Kenya
- Experimentation with solar tech powered lights, provided by Campbell Companies, to extend viable work hours for planting and harvesting in hoophouses in the Navajo Nation
- The utilization of KoboToolbox to collect data and evaluate projects via fully digital phone applications in rural Nepal
Implementing Innovative Solutions
CHOICE has leveraged technology for enhanced outcomes for the central office staff as well. A new leadership role of Chief Technology Officer was added to the team, and Rob Glance—a professional expert with over 26 years of experience in IT and database infrastructure management—now leads the operational technology strategy. This includes managing the implementation of a generous technology grant to improve technology tools, data management systems, and communication capabilities across the organization. As CHOICE increases operational capabilities to an elite level, it will improve its impact in the field to change lives. In the wake of a growing digital divide, CHOICE is more committed than ever to connect communities with resources needed to thrive. Together with the support of donors, partners, and advocates, CHOICE implements innovative solutions across all systems to improve outcomes and reduce poverty. CHOICE understands the urgent need to bridge this gap and commits to support rural communities to connect them to the broader digital world.