When the Covid-19 pandemic began to spread through Colombia, Angela Montiel, a resident of Uribia, La Guajira, came to know about the crisis through their neighbors as they don’t have access to the Internet.
According to a story by CNN, the only information she got was a deadly virus “causing whooping cough” was gripping the country and had even hit the nearby city of Maicao. However, she was skeptical that it was close to home by saying: “I don’t know if this is true.”
Internet is still not available to a sizeable world population
As the pandemic began to force billions across the globe to stay at home over the past three to four months, the Internet is the only option that allowed them to keep track of the coronavirus crisis.
Even though the Internet is now ruling the world, billions of people like Montiel don’t even have access to the internet during the pandemic. They have to rely on family and friends for any information related to pandemic.
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In late April, the Colombian government issued a nationwide lockdown leaving Montiel along with her husband and three children to stay at home, which made it difficult for her to access the Internet as there is no way to top-up her SIM card during the lockdown. She is also unable to sell traditional Wayuu mochila bags, which is her only source of income, due to lockdown.
Montiel was quoted by the CNN as saying,
“Seeing as we don’t have TV, internet or anything, we don’t know if it’s still going on or if it will keep going, so obviously we can’t go out or move around. We’re in despair.”
According to the UN, Around 46% of the world’s population is still struggling to connect to the internet. In situations like lockdown, these people will miss various things, based on the Internet, including immediate access to vital public health information, remote work opportunities, online learning, telemedicine appointments, digital grocery deliveries, and many more.
Even though governments across the globe made commitments to provide universal access by 2020, but the digital divide is widening inequalities offline.
Eleanor Sarpong, the deputy director at the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) said,
“We’ve always said that there are about 3.5 billion people who are not connected, but we know it’s more now because quite a number of the people who used to be connected at their workplaces and other public spaces no longer have that access. Covid-19 has shown that there’s such a huge divide, and it’s actually come as a shock to some governments. When they asked their employees to go to work from home … a lot of them couldn’t.”