For some time, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have been considered the potential catalyst for breaking socio-economic barriers. But, in reality, the digital divide continues to keep the power of ICT out of reach for a large majority of people, often times exacerbating inequalities.
In a society that is increasingly information and knowledge based, the challenge is to employ technology as an ally in a conscious movement for ushering in economic and social equity. For vulnerable and marginalised groups, this would mean increased opportunities for employment and learning and greater social inclusion.
The Aga Khan Foundation is working to close the digital divide by creating opportunities for computer and ICT literacy among underserved urban communities. In the neighbourhoods of Alta de Lisboa, Mira Sintra and Ameixoeira in Portugal, the Urban Community Support Programme (UCSP) facilitates the following activities:
Training and certification in new information technologies for women, unemployed people, elders, youngsters and socially and economically vulnerable immigrants; as well as training for technicians from civil society organisations, providing them with the skills to increase their success in school, their employability and the efficiency and quality of their work with underprivileged communities.
Specialised ICT-inclusive training for micro-entrepreneurs and small businessmen, for the creation and improvement of their businesses.
Digital Inclusion Spaces that provide residents with free use of computers and Internet access.
Development of tools to support activities in the areas of education and economic development, namely, the creation of a digital observatory, as well as digital resource guides which provide residents with information about locally available resources and infrastructures.