Professor Ishmael Mensah, Director of the Confucius Institute, University of Cape Coast (UCC), has tasked government to make conscious efforts at bridging the digital divide created by the impact of COVID-19.
He said digital literacy has become more imperative than ever hence the need the Government to provide equal access to information and communication technology (ICT) for the youth, particularly for those in rural areas.
He said accessible internet platforms must be widened for the youth to acquire the requisite digital skills to be able to survive the modern information era.
Prof Mensah was speaking at the International Literacy Day, marked in Cape Coast, to raise awareness on the need for the youth to read extensively and be equipped with knowledge about the Internet.
The Day, celebrated annually in September, was marked on the theme: “Literacy for a Human- Centered Recovery: Narrowing the Digital Divide”.
It was supported by the Book Aid International, a United Kingdom (UK) based Non- Governmental Organisation, committed to providing books to communities to enhance access and improve lives.
Prof Mensah said the number of internet users had increased in thousands and that could be mainly attributed to the novel pandemic, which threatened and restricted people’s movements.
He, however, urged government to encourage the use of internet as an integral part of the school curriculum to provide the youth with the relevant ICT skills to enable them to take full advantage of electronic learning.
“The cost of data is a major hindrance to access ICT in Ghana so we could liaise with internet service providers to expand free or low cost internet options to help subsidise the cost of data for some segments of the population,” he said.
Mr Harford Siaw, the Chief Executive of Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Library Authority (GLA), said the Authority had declared 2021 as the ‘Year of Literacy’ to eliminate illiteracy and provide knowledge resources.
Programmes including national story writing challenge, ‘personality reads yenko library’ and the establishment of over 400 book clubs in basic schools were part of the celebration to as measures to ignite the love for reading among the youth, he said.
To narrow the digital divide in public libraries, all regional libraries have been connected to the internet with the installation of 158 computers in 20 libraries with support from the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communication.
“ICT hubs have also been established in public libraries to allow patrons ride on technology to accomplish many incredible feats. We have worked with the Ministry of Education to introduce a learning management system that would provide students and teachers with electronic learning experiences,” he added.
Mr Alison Tweed, the CEO of Book Aid International, bemoaned the impact of COVID-19 on communities across the globe, especially the disruption in education of millions of young people over the past 18 months.
He said literacy was an essential foundation for the younger generation and it could not thrive without resources, adding that libraries played a vital role in assisting young people get back on track with reading and learning.
Mr Tweed noted that regular reading had proven to have enhanced not just literacy but broadened knowledge and improved vocabulary and well-being.
He said a digital library app to aid reading had been made available as COVID-19 threatened people’s movement and pledged his organisation’s commitment to supporting the GLA to meet contemporary demands.