REPORT: Online engagement in the global South – Perspectives, challenges and options
Online engagements increased dramatically in 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Virtual platforms have enabled interactions and work to continue, despite an inability to meet in person. However, the digital divide has posed one of the biggest challenges for many of those from developing countries and rural areas to interact online. High internet connection costs, unreliable connectivity and limited access to computer hardware or smartphones have hindered participation in the global South.
This working paper shares some of the experiences and challenges climate practitioners in the global South have faced in transitioning to working online because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is based on a CDKN survey conducted in 2020, as well as a series of interviews with practitioners in Africa, Asia and South America. The paper shares different perspectives on the extent to which online engagement has been successful and what can be improved. It also highlights some lessons learned for organising inclusive and effective engagements – from organising large international meetings and in-depth participatory processes, to running training events at national and sub-national levels.
Recommendations for action include:
- Skills development for facilitators, on how to run virtual meetings.
- Training for participants on how to use technologies.
- Purchasing data bundles for participants to overcome the costs of internet connections.
- Facilitating participants’ travel to areas with better/more reliable internet connectivity.
- Considering the scheduling of meetings and events carefully, to support inclusion across time zones.
Notwithstanding these tips for organisers, enduring factors that drive the ‘digital divide’ require broader action on the part of governments, utility and technology providers, such as addressing erratic electricity supply and restrictions on the use of certain platforms in some countries. These factors all continue to hamper equal access to online meetings.
Download the working paper here.
Photo: Women and girls from Barmer in Rajasthan, India using a laptop for the first time. Courtesy Digital Empowerment Foundation