Technology also holds the potential of denying people a fighting chance as some aspects of upward social mobility also depend on technology access
pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
OFTEN, we are told that the path to success is linear.
With talent or education, one would surely be able to carve out better days ahead, irrespective of the circumstances they were born in.
This is the same story with many versions told over and over again throughout our lives. Parents to children. Employers to employees.
Unfortunately, this is not a foolproof plan. As much as education and hard work contributes to our social mobility, the deck is still stacked against those at the lower end of the social strata.
Level playing field has never been more than just an ideal concept and in reality, access to education or opportunities to build talent is still lacking.
Fortunately, in the past decade we have seen the robust development of technology that seem to have positively contributed towards increasing access to education and opportunities.
With the introduction of video conferencing technologies and video sharing platforms, access to educational materials is seeing an improvement.
In fact, hundreds of online classes across multiple disciplines have also mushroomed ever since the beginning of the pandemic.
Platforms like Coursera, LinkedIn Learning and Skillshare are constantly offering new courses on weekly basis at an affordable rate. With Youtube, one can learn almost anything at little to no cost.
Reputable universities are also introducing education programmes that cater to remote students and begin sharing their learning resources online for open access. Harvard University, for example, is now running an online courses platform.
Other than education and learning opportunities, businesses and employers are also more open to hiring remote workers who otherwise would have been locked out of the opportunity altogether due to logistics or financial limitations.
All these were made possible due to the expansion of technology and its integration in our lives.
Although things are moving towards a hopeful direction, access to technology and poor Internet connectivity now become the main concerns.
According to a survey conducted last year by the Ministry of Education, 36.9% students out of the 893,331 who participated in the survey do not possess or have any access to devices, while only 6% of students had personal computers, 5.76% had tablets, 9% had laptops and 46% had smartphones.
The government must seriously look into the public’s level of access to technology in all fields and areas. Otherwise, the valuable tools provided by improvement of technology remain unutilised.
Beyond giving out Internet subsidies or subpar smart devices to certain target groups, meaningful action also has to be taken. For example, the building of digital infrastructures like transmission towers and cable that could contribute to sustainable and quality connectivity.
Especially for rural areas where access to technology is often the lowest, there should be a specific government programme that brings digital infrastructures to the people that need them the most.
Telecommunication companies should not be allowed to take their time. Interest in providing rural connectivity must be created through government initiatives.
Serious efforts must also be made by the government in improving IT literacy among the public given the significant impact it has on our lives.
The barriers and solutions for increasing the understanding of technology as a tool for social mobility must be seriously looked into and understood.
This is especially important as technology does not only bridge the access to upward social mobility, but some aspects of upward social mobility are also becoming dependant on one’s access to technology.
For example, to acquire certain government aid programmes or to apply for job opportunities, one must first know how to navigate through the digital application process.
The lack of access and under-standing in technology by the poor would not just leave them behind in the race but could potentially lock them out of the competition altogether too.
While technology could accelerate upward social mobility, we must remember that it also holds the potential of denying people a fighting chance.
Bait Al-Amanah is an independent research institute that promotes policy and decision-making through sound, independent and multidisciplinary analysis in areas of governance and democracy, economics, security and issues of national importance.
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The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.