Video: Bridges to the Future Initiative
The success of the Internet, above everything else, hinges on public interest, which is tied to literacy. A lack of literacy often translates to a lack of interest in computing. The multi-cultural nature of African societies has long posed a challenge for computer use. For example, South Africa has 11 main languages, although only a select few are utilized by the majority of society. Fortunately, ICT advances can still benefit those who are unable to use a computer or so lack the desire (think health programs, or information from the Internet disseminated by word-of-mouth, for example). And, some people will never use a computer out of personal belief. Still, the billions of dollars and man-hours spent on technology should be maximized. This means getting people directly involved with computers (or mobile devices).
In short, it is difficult to comprehend change without knowing the options. The excitement of progress often overshadows the fact that a large portion of the populace is indifferent to change. Although they lead lives that are deemed “difficult” by advancing standards, these citizens are too busy dealing with a time-consuming daily routine to realize the benefits of digital (or even analog) literacy. Fortunately, public and private organizations are working together to provide new options for increasing literacy in Africa.
Case in point: the Bridges to the Future Initiative. This program aims to simultaneously teach reading comprehension and computer skills to South Africans who otherwise would be deterred by the language barrier. BFI’s easy-to-use software program can teach in four languages (and soon will expand to offer more) with an ultimate goal of improving social and economic futures. Expect more programs like BFI to appear in the coming years as more resources become available.