If there is one lesson that is to be drawn from the Global Pandemic, it should be that access to the internet is as important as access to education and healthcare. With the lockdown in place and with schools being closed, it was imperative for the education sector to shift the learning process to online mediums but given the current digital divide between different areas of Pakistan, it was a difficult task at hand. Many areas in Pakistan, especially the peripheral region of KP and Balochistan have no 3G and 4G coverage and hence those areas were completely cut down from the mainland because of the COVID restrictions, and the impacts of the digital divide were quite visible during that time.
E-Learning in Post Covid World
In the post-Covid World, E-learning is the new normal as the conventional means of getting knowledge and skills are becoming outdated. Children these days are using digital platforms such as Khan Academy and Udemy to equip themselves with modern tools for earning. Even women in remote areas with internet access are learning blockchain and other skills to earn and support their families while sitting in their homes. But this facility is only limited to areas that have uninterrupted internet access, and such areas are only a handful, women living in far-flung areas cannot even begin to imagine how simple access to the internet can revolutionize their lives.
The Impacts of the digital divide are actually worse when we talk about children and youth. We often see our politicians and policy maker bragging about the potential of the country’s youth which is more than 68% of our total population, but they hardly come up with any plan to capitalize on this potential and make them skillful so they can contribute positively in the economy of our country and not only can the support themselves but also can help their families.
The impact of the digital divide on education in Pakistan is most noticeable in the quality and access to education. The quality of education is directly impacted by the availability of technology and the internet. The internet provides access to vast amounts of information, and the use of technology in the classroom can make education more interactive, engaging, and effective. Teachers and students who have access to technology and the internet can access online resources and educational materials, which can greatly enhance the learning experience. In contrast, teachers and students who lack access to technology and the internet are at a disadvantage, as they are unable to take advantage of these resources and are limited in their ability to learn.
Moreover, the digital divide also affects access to education. Technology and the internet play a critical role in providing access to education for those who are unable to attend traditional classrooms. Online education has the potential to bridge the gap between those who have access to education and those who do not. However, in Pakistan, the digital divide limits the availability of online education and exacerbates the disparities in access to education. Those who live in urban areas have more access to technology and the internet, which makes it easier for them to participate in online education programs. In contrast, those who live in rural areas often lack access to technology and the internet, which makes it difficult for them to participate in online education programs. This creates a significant disparity in access to education, which is a major barrier to educational opportunities and outcomes.
The impact of the digital divide on education in Pakistan also extends to teacher training and professional development. Technology and the internet play a critical role in providing access to professional development opportunities for teachers. Teachers who have access to technology and the internet can participate in online professional development programs, which can help them stay up-to-date with the latest teaching techniques and practices. However, the digital divide in Pakistan makes it difficult for teachers in rural areas to participate in these programs, which limits their ability to improve their skills and knowledge. This, in turn, limits the quality of education they can provide to their students.
In addition, the impact of the digital divide on education in Pakistan extends to the ability to track student progress and assess educational outcomes. Technology and the internet play a critical role in tracking student progress and assessing educational outcomes. Teachers and administrators who have access to technology and the internet can use online tools and resources to track student progress and assess educational outcomes. This information is critical for making decisions about how to improve the quality of education and ensure that students are making progress. However, the digital divide in Pakistan makes it difficult for teachers and administrators in rural areas to access these tools and resources, which limits their ability to track student progress and assess educational outcomes.
Digital Divide and Economy
The digital divide also has a significant impact on the economy of Pakistan. Education is a critical component of the country’s economic growth and development, and the lack of access to technology and the internet is a major impediment to this growth. For example, students in rural areas who do not have access to the internet and technology are unable to develop the skills necessary to participate in the digital economy. As a result, they are unable to compete with their peers in urban areas, and their potential for economic success is limited. In a post-Covid World, we have learned new dimensions to explore human potential and people have found new ways and means to earn and play their productive role in the country’s economy. Imagine Pakistan, where the majority of the country does not have proper internet facilities, the economic aspect of this phenomenon is even more damaging and catastrophic.
What’s the Way Forward?
To mitigate the impact of the digital divide on education in Pakistan, it is necessary to implement policies and programs that promote access to technology and the internet in rural areas. This can be achieved through a combination of government initiatives and private-sector partnerships. For example, the government can establish programs that provide schools in rural areas with access to the internet, computers, and other technology resources. Additionally, the private sector can partner with schools in rural areas to provide technology and internet access, as well as training programs for teachers and students.
To conclude, one can say that the impact of the digital divide on education in Pakistan is significant, as it limits the ability of students and teachers to take advantage of the many benefits of digital technology for learning. This disparity perpetuates social and economic inequalities and undermines the ability of students to prepare for the digital age. To address this issue, it is essential to invest in technology infrastructure, teacher training, and programs that promote equal access to technology for all students. By doing so, Pakistan can begin to bridge the gap.