ICT empowering disabled in Ghana, South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania
According to the UN, around 10 per cent of the world’s population, or 650 million people, live with a disability. They are the world’s largest minority. Children and adults with disabilities face myriad challenges: abuse, lack of education, illiteracy, and unemployment to name a few.
Deepak Bhatia of the World Bank argues that ICTs provide a model to allow disabled people to better integrate socially and economically into their communities. For example, the Internet allows those with disabilities to organize and network. Perhaps most importantly, technology is slowly transforming the education sector by providing greater access to a variety of learning materials. Screen-reading software reads content aloud. Voice recognition software composes spoken messages. Mobile devices are much easier to operate than a traditional computer.
Ghana’s government is committed to teaching ICT skills to youth with disabilities. The Persons with Disability ICT Project aims to equip certain disabled people with ICT skills for the contemporary world.
Similarly, South Africa’s Department of Communications hopes to create an enabling environment for the disabled. Minister Dina Pule has challenged youth to be part of the solution. With proper stakeholder cooperation, the program is expected to reduce unemployment, and more importantly, ensure equal opportunities for all.
In Namibia and Tanzania, Sign Wiki allows the deaf and those who communicate with the deaf (ideally everyone) to learn sign language. Currently, there are 2,200 Tanzanian signs and 800 Namibian signs in the databases.
The aforementioned initiatives are fairly new, so it is too soon to tell if government-sponsored ICT programs achieve their initial goals. Stay tuned though because with some effort, ICT will not only empower the disabled but will also cause those who are healthy to understand how to help those who are less fortunate.