Digital literacy: Key tools for transforming life and work in rural areas
San José, 8 March 2021 (IICA) – The full incorporation of digital skills is key to positively transforming work and quality of life in rural areas, according to the document “Digital Literacy in Rural Areas: An Indispensable Condition to Bridge the Divide in Latin America and the Caribbean”, prepared by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) with support from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Microsoft.
In times of accelerating technological change, digital skills acquisition is directly related to better qualification and readiness for the new work environment and to people being fully enabled to participate in meeting the needs of organizations as well as work and productive environments, according to the study.
IICA launched the study on International Women’s Day, at an event attended by the Minister of Agriculture of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, Honorable Zulfikar Mustapha; the Secretary for Family Farming and Cooperatives of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply of Brazil, Fernando Schwanke; IDB Gender and Diversity Division Chief, María Caridad Araujo; Microsoft’s LATAM Education Lead, Luciano Braverman, and IICA Director General, Manuel Otero.
IICA consultant Sandra Ziegler, who led the publication’s production, presented the document, which describes the close relationship between technological literacy and productivity, linking digital skills with educational opportunities for rural populations.
Citing the central role played by rural schools in introducing these skills and the existing gender disparity, the document further makes the point that girls tend to have access to digital technologies much later on, and this influences their educational outcomes and future prospects.
The new study proposes to inform policy adoption while bringing to the fore in public dialogue the much-neglected issue of the introduction of digital skills among rural populations in Latin American and Caribbean. This issue plays a role as important as the issue of connectivity, and its absence undermines the enormous productive, social and economic potential of rural areas.
The publication’s launch follows two prior studies revealing the wide gender-based digital divide in rural areas and quantifying various deficits in terms of adequate connectivity.
In view of the tremendous potential for wholesale transformation of rural life, IICA decided to hone in on the issue of digital literacy geared toward effective use of information and communication technology resources – and on relevant content material to promote the use of those resources.
The study outlines strategies and policies for dealing with digital skills, on the understanding that the contribution of digital technologies and incorporating them into agriculture hold the key to transforming food production and consumption practices, and furthermore that digital technologies play an important role in providing alternatives to the current problems and challenges facing rural territories in terms of production, marketing and development.
It also shows the correlation between internet use and schooling; and between access and use and gender, while noting the important role played by youth in driving adoption of these technologies in rural areas.
“Women must have equal access to training and technology. We must recognize the role they play in the agriculture sector and help them acquire greater skills in order to close the gender gap. Guyana is committed to fostering the social conditions and rural development necessary to promote connectivity and digitization and to ensuring that technologies and innovations are effectively adopted and implemented,” Minister Mustapha said.
He went on to remark: “We hope the study’s findings prove useful for Latin America and the Caribbean in their medium and long-term decision-making and public policy implementation.”
According to the IDB’s Araujo, “access to technology and mastery of digital skills are necessary conditions to transition and adapt to jobs of the future that offer greater prosperity for our communities and widespread equality for all”.
“We are aware of the enormous gaps that characterize the rural sector, and within the sector, the gaps and disadvantages faced by women…At the IDB we are working primarily on economic recovery, precisely to recover towards a society in which the gaps in labor participation, in women’s economic participation, are smaller than those we had before. The potential, skill and dynamism of women must be at the core of the region’s economic recovery,’ the financing agency’s Gender and Diversity Division Chief added.
“The challenge facing our countries is one of inclusion. This study will be very useful for us. Information and communication technologies and their incorporation into agribusiness are key to transforming production and food consumption practices. The study will help consolidate public policies to strengthen digital agriculture in our countries,” Schwanke said.
Meanwhile, Luciano Braverman, from Microsoft, remarked that “the speed of technology adoption has had, is having, and will continue to have a huge impact on the workforce. There is no doubt that a direct need is emerging for highly technology-related jobs in all industries. The majority of new jobs include a sizeable technology factor; the challenge lies before us, since many of the jobs of the future have not yet been invented, which makes acquiring those new skills in preparation for those jobs all the more important”.
Braverman added: “developing those skills is a priority for Microsoft in particular and it is directly related to our mission to empower every individual and institution across the globe to achieve more. I’m very happy to be able to continue collaborating with IICA and IDB on projects such as these that aim to highlight the opportunity ahead of us.”
Meanwhile, the IICA Director General explained that “it is the mission of all of us to break down the barriers that block male and female farmers from accessing knowledge - a driving factor for improved production and revenue for families and future generations to be guaranteed an education, work, and be deeply rooted on the land. We are promoting digital skills training because developing those skills will allow for a qualitative leap in the lives of people living in rural areas”.
The study also identifies the strategies used for digital skills training in rural areas, and details those linked to the development of productive activity and marketing, in order to encourage the use of these technologies applied to agriculture.
Watch the launch of the study:
Institutional Communication Division