Kampala, Uganda – In today’s digital age, Hello World, a non-profit organization, is working to bring the benefits of the internet to underserved communities in Uganda. The organization is focused on setting up solar-powered, internet-enabled education hubs across the country to provide access to knowledge, education, and the global community.
Founder and CEO Katrin McMillan believes that extending internet access to young people, women, and girls is a key step in helping them access education, advocate for their rights, and connect with the world.
However, the global digital landscape reveals a significant disparity. According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), 4.1 billion people worldwide still lack internet access, with 90% of them living in developing countries.
This gap presents a unique opportunity for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to not only expand their customer base but also contribute to local economies, education, and narrowing the digital divide.
For example, in Uganda, where slightly over 50% of the population has internet access, according to the Uganda Communications Commission, ISPs have a significant opportunity to provide services to underserved communities.
In Nigeria, as of January 2023, there were 122.5 million internet users, with an internet penetration rate of 55.4%, as reported by the ITU. Increased internet access in Nigeria is expected to fuel e-commerce, with a projected market worth of $20 billion USD by 2025. The education and healthcare sectors are also expected to benefit significantly, with millions of students enrolling in online learning programs and over 1,000 telemedicine clinics operating in the country.
However, extending internet access to remote areas comes with challenges such as infrastructure limitations, device accessibility, and cultural barriers. Despite these obstacles, the World Bank suggests that internet access can boost a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by up to 1.5%.
To overcome these challenges, Hello World is collaborating with ISPs to establish solar-powered internet kiosks in hard-to-reach communities. McMillan emphasizes the opportunity for ISPs to work with NGOs and local communities to develop culturally relevant content and services. Programs offered by Hello Hubs include life skills training, computer literacy, numeracy, and literacy, all aimed at bridging the education gap.
The collaboration between ISPs, governments, NGOs, and local communities holds the potential to transform the internet into a powerful tool for social and economic development.
McMillan concludes by saying, “Providing internet access to underserved communities is a complex challenge, but it is a challenge worth undertaking. ISPs stand at the forefront, not only expanding their customer base but also making a positive impact on society. Through innovative solutions and collaborative endeavors, the vision of a digitally inclusive world is within reach.”
To date, Hello World has established numerous education hubs across Uganda, including in refugee settlement camps, to increase access to digital education opportunities.