Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society (UNESCO, 2004; 2017). When we think about literacy, the first thing that comes to our mind is that of an individual who is capable of reading and writing. But today, the definition of literacy has completely changed. Learning has progressed beyond reading and writing. Digital literacy, which includes e-learning skills, has broadened traditional literacy that we are familiar with and helps in improving people’s thinking and learning abilities.
The COVID-19 global pandemic has forced people across the globe to change the way they work, teach, and learn. The definition of literacy has completely changed and now has become a means of understanding, interpretation, creation, and communication in an increasingly digital, text-mediated, information-rich and fast-changing world.
Digital literacy is becoming increasingly important in the modern world as the Internet and digital technologies have become more and more integrated into people’s lives. With the passage of time, more people are getting online and incorporating these technologies into their daily lives, be it at work or at home. Developed countries and also the urban areas of Nepal have quickly adapted to a whole new digital landscape after COVID 19. However, there are certain significant rural areas in Nepal and also many other parts of the world that are still lagging behind in terms of technology adoption, as technology has yet to reach some areas while others lack awareness of how to use digital technologies.
Digitization in Humanitarian aid
As digitization is gaining a lot of traction in each and every sector, the humanitarian aid sector is no exception. The way humanitarian organizations carry out their activities and provide relief to the underprivileged has rapidly changed due to digitalization. The technologies help in ensuring that the humanitarian organization responds to crises and continues to help affected and vulnerable populations. Furthermore, digitally rooted contextual analyses, crisis mapping, and digitized services can allow humanitarians to more efficiently serve affected people, and to predict and respond to humanitarian crises
Digitization provides a lot of opportunities to strengthen the humanitarian relief efforts but with the opportunities there also comes the certain risk. There are three main risks that are identified with respect to humanitarian action which includes; digital surveillance, monitoring and intrusion; Misinformation, disinformation and hate speech (MDH); and the misuse and mishandling of data and personal information.
Several active steps can be taken to account for all of these risks, including fostering digital literacy, strengthening data protection practices, and creating appropriate safeguards for the adoption of digital technologies, as well as adopting appropriate humanitarian policies that ensure humanitarians continue to put people at the center of their work.
Fostering digital literacy in humanitarian efforts
Digital literacy is one of the necessities for the actors and the organizations those who are involved in the humanitarian sector as well as for the affected communities. Digital literacy has been regarded as a valuable approach for recognizing the importance of ensuring that underprivileged communities have access to not only technology but also the resources to learn how to use it, as well as awareness and perspectives on risk associated with it. The main purpose of using technology is to encourage various changes in people’s or social groups’ behavior in order for them to be regarded as members of the information society. Digital literacy is considered as an essential part of today’s society’s progress. So, to obtain these privileges, however, crucial digital skills must be developed, such as learning and using digital tools and creating a digital identity that provides access to numerous platforms and devices to the vulnerable communities.
Rahat’s digital literacy initiatives
Fig 1: Using the Rahat platform by aid agencies
Rahat is an open-source, blockchain-based humanitarian aid distribution management system. Rahat’s main goal is to make the aid distribution process for vulnerable communities simple, efficient and transparent. Rahat is inspired by the idea of bringing in quick relief with minimum overhead costs to counter the plight of countries like Nepal. Rahat hopes to plug leakages in aid distribution, involve local communities to build financial resilience, and tap into support for unbanked populations efficiently as it uses mobile-based blockchain tokens to manage and monitor the flow of aid transactions.
Rahat has conducted a number of pilot projects throughout the country. Rahat is using its platform to empower underprivileged communities and has recently started digital literacy initiatives through its pilot projects. Recently, in one of its pilots, the Rahat team introduced the Rahat system flow using Rahat brochures to the beneficiaries and their guardians i.e. the school students of GeetaMata Secondary School. They explained to them how the technology has brought a significant impact on the humanitarian aid and distribution processes.
They highlighted about the Rahat system, how it works, the procedure behind the relief they get, and the role of various people or organizations involved in providing aid. They also spoke with the students about the use and importance of QR codes in the Rahat system, and how they receive the rahat by simply using the phone and scanning the QR code, without any hassles or waiting in line for several hours.
Rahat team is attempting to educate and raise awareness about the relevance of technology and digitalization among not only school students, their parents, and instructors, but the rest of the community through its various other pilot projects.
Impact of digital literacy on Nepali people
Nepal is gradually moving towards a digital economy, thanks to recent development and growing use of technology. As we can see nowadays, more and more consumers are making digital payments with their smartphones.The QR codes are becoming more popular from product packaging to mom & pop shops, supermarkets, grocery stores, restaurants, chiya pasal, and a variety of other places. It is found everywhere, and more and more people are using it and creating an impact on everyone’s lives. People have acknowledged the importance of it in today’s fast changing world. Even in the rural part of the country most people are familiar with the use of smartphones and featured phones. So, the government and other various organizations should take initiatives to create a society where people are aware about the technology that is changing everyone’s lives.
There are various NGOs, INGOs, along with the initiatives like Open Learning Exchange (OLE) Nepal and One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) which are providing access to the digital learning platform specially for poor rural girls. The role of Nepali women and the use of technology are key to the country’s potential and future. These various initiatives have helped increase literacy rates and encouraged the creation of digital communities in Nepal. Digital literacy is a must for everyone to improve their lives as well as the communities as a whole.