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Education And Businesses Suffer Badly Because Of Digital Inequity

Technology and communication are two major factors for quick business growth. It is easier to achieve cost efficiency through economies of scale, faster access to other markets and resources. New innovations invariably provide a competitive advantage and help improve business performances.

In many developing countries, technology is still not a major part of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The lack of digital equity impacts the growth of small or medium-size businesses negatively. These countries have population living below the poverty line. The markets in these countries are unable to utilize their full potential competencies in an efficient manner because of their inexperience with technology. Emerging economies usually have a lot of growth potential because of the growing number of consumers and a faster-growing middle class. At the same time in these markets, there is a huge gap between rich and poor social classes, in which the low-skilled human resource from the lower class is not aware of the importance of technology in business. For example, the farmers in rural areas of poor economies do not have enough technical knowledge to increase their output and income as compared to the farmers in other developed countries.

In Pakistan, most SMEs of the service sector do not have an updated website, that can be used to find the details of their products or services. These businesses do not give importance to creating web portals to hire the most suitable employees from the market, nor too are the employees equipped with much technological knowledge. Resultantly, these small businesses easily lose out in the competition nationally, to say nothing of their standing internationally.

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Lack of access to technology also impacts the learning process in the education sector for primary and secondary schools in Pakistan. Sixty percent of the Pakistani population is young, and the new generation in urban areas is growing up using tablets and smartphones from early childhood. However, we have to distinguish between the different ways in which these are used by the youngsters, i.e. between productive and leisurely use of these electronic gadgets. Far more frequently than for educational purposes, children and youngsters use smartphones and iPad devices for playing online games, using social media, online shopping and entertainment. This is obviously of far lesser use than how the same technology is employed by a few others for very different purposes. These kids are using their capabilities for experimenting to resolve social issues of food, water supply, renewable energies and learning of computer software.

Still, we have a large number of children who do not have any access to technology at all. They do not have proper resources to develop their skills with modern tools to become a quality resource for the future workforce. Even though Pakistani government has announced the budget in 2020 for STEM-based (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education systems in schools, there will most likely be a huge gap to apply this system on a large scale because 63% population of Pakistan is living in rural areas. There is a huge human capital residing in small towns, districts, villages and their major source of income is agriculture. The population from these areas are much further than their urban counterparts from access to or even familiarity with technology.

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When I look at the technology access gap in normal Pakistani primary and secondary schools, I feel that we require the quick attention of the government to create a policy for changing the academic course every three years in private and government secondary schools to align with international standards. This would increase the responsibility of the school teachers in rural areas to receive training in computer competency, so as to be able to equip their students with the same. The teachers should act as a coach to bridge the gap for the students in their learning through classroom discussions and assignments on current world developments, such as how to use solar energy in creating electricity for tube wells or how to create batteries from renewable energies for tractors and small generators.

The education sector needs government attention on a continuous basis because the use of technology is a crucial part of learning for children today to develop quality human capital for the nation.

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Naya Daur