World map of child labor versus Internet penetration
TargetMap allows users to create maps by simply uploading a data table. A dozen of the maps depict global Internet access, but one uniquely adds child labor statistics to the mix.
In a global context, it is obvious that African nations have high rates of child labor and low rates of Internet penetration. This comes as no surprise given Africa’s agrarian tradition. Within Africa, the nations of Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Benin, Chad, Ethiopia, Somalia, Niger, and Central African Republic have the highest incidences of child labor. These eight nations also tend to have extremely low rates of Internet access. North African nations, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe have much lower rates of child labor and boast higher Internet penetration rates. South Africa, on the other hand, has a relatively high Internet penetration rate (10%) but a moderate child labor rate (32.5%). An inverse relationship certainly exists (reduce Internet access and find increased child labor), but the reason for high child labor tends to be the rural nature of most Sub-Saharan Africa nations.
Correlation does not imply causation
Child labor is not directly preventing Internet access, nor is a lack of Internet access the only reason child labor still exists.For better or worse, the Internet is changing local cultures. Tradition is competing with Western values. In many cultures, it is expected for children to help the family rather than attend school. Information transmitted from other parts of the world is slowly eroding these expectations.
For farmers, new agricultural practices are making life more efficient. Fewer people are needed to complete a task. Quite possibly, a benefit of m-agriculture is the reduction of a need for child labor.
At the same time, Internet presence suggests a government with certain resources and policies that are likely to spill over into labor standards. Odds are that a nation with the money to support infrastructure creation will devote a portion of its finances to other areas of the economy – such as child labor reform.
Still, the Internet is likely to transmit knowledge of children’s rights to elders and parents. Children, in time, can become empowered to ask for fair treatment.
Childinfo.org (part of UNICEF) looks at the percentage of children aged 5-14 engaged in child labor. The program “strives to protect their rights, improve their health, and nurture their development through sound planning and monitoring of policy results”. Internet penetration data comes from Internet World Stats, which tends to be based on ITU data (in this case 2010). Child labor (and Internet penetration) statistics are estimates at best, but even ballpark figures give a sense of how a nation leans.