Rural youth and digital technology in the DRC:

The city of Sange is one of the decentralized territorial entities established as a rural municipality by the promulgation of the 2013 Ministerial Decree. More than five years after this decision, Sange’s administrative status remains ambiguous. This city has about 70,000 people, the majority of whom are young people. The latter are mostly inactive for lack of jobs. However, some young people do not disarm and take initiatives for their competences.

The experience of the young Kado Leo caught our attention. He is both a student and an agent at telecommunications company Airtel: “I combine studies with my job as a telephone credit intermediary. In addition to this activity, I have a pay phone with a device to charge the phones because the city is not supplied with electricity. These combined activities allow me to pay for my studies; the mobile phone makes it easier for us to communicate and transfer money”.

Teaching computer science in rural areas:

Stanislas is 34 years old, he teaches computer science at the school complex La Grâce. He talks about his experience: “In this rural environment, there are many challenges in relation to this computer course. Practical lessons are almost impossible due to the lack of computer equipment for the students. In addition to this difficulty, there is the problem of having enough electricity to run the computers. The school has no computer; for my class I use a private computer and it does not meet the needs of our students. I teach the computer course to all classes. Students do not have access to this computer and therefore cannot relate the theory and practice learned. Out of 45 students in a class, it takes weeks to understand how keyboards work due to the lack of computers. Learning on one computer for a class of 45 students, during 50 minutes of class time, is a utopia. It’s really complicated.”

Meanwhile, access to Android phones is still limited among young people. Majority of students cannot afford phones with great apps. The Internet connection is also a problem. Every user gets a lot of GB on his phone at great cost. In the entire city, no public service provides access to the internet connection. In addition to the credits to power the phone, the user uses the pay phone to power the device. The cost of the levy is 200 Congolese Francs.

Digital remains essential!:

Despite the challenges of accessing digital technology in rural areas, young people still remain digital. Faradja studied at the University of Lubumbashi. With a degree in International Relations Faradja combines teaching and sitting in a local government. He is also deputy city chief of Sange. New information and communication technologies are a valuable but sometimes inaccessible contribution in the performance of its tasks.

“It is true that the two functions are difficult to reconcile. In this world where computers are essential it is difficult because it is difficult to access the internet network and this causes problems. If we didn’t have easy access to the internet, I think it would be difficult to combine the two tasks. Things are difficult; with the economic situation of our country and of our environment, also where access to the internet requires resources; I taught computer science two years ago and to this day the situation has not changed and the challenges we faced were related to internet access. The Internet network does not exist, except by telephone ”.

The role of digital technology in a city plagued by insecurity:

As Sange’s governing body, Faradja advocates an internet installation at the city’s office. In this modernized world, one should have appropriate equipment to access real-time information. Nevertheless, we use the telephone to communicate with municipalities and provinces. This communication is expensive and the network is unstable. The DRC cannot function without a reliable and stable computer network and equipment and that must start with the state services, Faradja emphasizes.

The work of the workshop on the DRC’s Digital Transformation Program for 2023:

The work launched in Kinshasa on Wednesday, June 23, 2021 by Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde Kyenge, should be the solution that will allow the DRC to achieve its development goals.

“The government of the Republic has embarked on the path of growth and development. That is why I have mentioned digital as one of the major pillars of the national program that has been offered to the national representation. In presenting this program I emphasized the need to transform the national digital program into a practical pillar of government action. This workshop is the realization of this commitment. The diagnosis established, the limitations encountered, as well as the experiences of other countries, have convinced us that digital technology can and should also be a better solution to enable our country to achieve these development goals,” argued Sama Lukonde.

By Bernardin SEBAHIRE

Media expert at ISDR / Bukavu