Facebook has announced the launch of its β€œMy Digital World” programs for Africa. The social networking company has said that it launched these programs to meet "digital literacy needs across Africa."

Facebook's My Digital World is a consolidation of all the company's digital literacy programs to date. These include Safe Online with Facebook, Ilizwe Lam, and eZibo. They will now all be offered virtually as a means to adapt to the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

β€œWe remain committed to equipping young people and the general public across Sub-Saharan Africa with the vital digital skills needed to navigate the digital world, especially during these challenging times of COVID-19. Never has it been more important to invest in, and train communities and the next generation of leaders to better understand and utilize the power of digital tools to take full advantage of what the internet has to offer," said Phil Oduor, Policy Programs Manager for Economic Impact and Digital Literacy, Facebook.

Facebook's Digital Literacy programs in Africa

According to Facebook, they have trained thousands of people across Africa over the years on digital literacy skills and is this year preparing to train close to 20,000 participants across Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Zambia, Senegal, Cote D'Ivoire, and Ethiopia on safe, responsible and beneficial usage of the digital platforms.

The training will be free and open to youths aged 13 years and above, and will also focus on teachers, parents, and guardians. The programs include:

Safe Online with Facebook: Facebook joined forces with Co-Creation Hub and Junior Achievement Nigeria for the Safe Online program, a 12-week after school workshop which was designed to introduce students to the fundamentals of online safety and digital literacy. Last year, the program also held four Safe Online Forums, bringing together stakeholders such as education officials, school leaders, and administrators, teachers, and education-focused NGOs to deliberate strategies to ensure the online safety of learners in schools across the country.

Ilizwe Lam: In partnership with Digify Africa, Facebook launched Ilizwe Lam a digital literacy program that offered youth communities in secondary schools and afterschool programs on how to stay safe online including, online safety, privacy, news literacy, and digital citizenship skills.

eZibo: Partnered with Asikana Network in Zambia to offer youths in secondary schools and afterschool programs vital training around responsible social media usage, online safety, privacy, news literacy, and digital citizenship skills.

My Digital World: In partnership with iEARN Kenya, Facebook is supporting teachers by providing virtual sessions to equip them with knowledge, skills, and competencies necessary to guide their learners on how to navigate the digital world responsibly and safely.

Digital literacy in Africa

Although African countries have a relatively high mobile phone penetration rate, Internet access still remains a challenge in most. This is mainly due to costs but in some cases it is due to digital literacy with most people accessing the Internet for the first time via their mobile phones.

Accessing the Internet mostly via the mobile phone, with some exceptions, mostly limits people to being consumers and not getting a full understanding and knowledge of what they can do.

Although Facebook's programs are commendable, the question always remains whether they only limit their digital literacy programs to their platforms. The other question is whether such an important task should be the responsibility of private companies.

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