We’re committed to developing the best digital uses. Lamine Gakou, Project Manager for Digital Entrepreneurship in charge of the “Better Internet for Kids” programme at Orange Senegal (Sonatel) in Dakar, tells us how they’re promoting more careful internet uses for children and their parents.
Digital at the heart of everyday life for young Africans
Despite low internet penetration on the continent (only 30% according to the International Union of Telecommunications - 2017), digital is becoming more accessible across Africa, especially among young people who are major users of social media. Young Africans spend an average of 2 hours 20 minutes each day online (vs. 1 hour 40 minutes watching TV).
In Senegal, 58% of the population is connected to the internet (source: ANSD - 2017) and 48% of 15-25 year olds use Facebook every day. According to Lamine Gakou, this high usage rate is a sign that digital technology is becoming part of daily life for post-millennial generations.
For little ones, screen time is strongly influenced by their parents’ attitude to technology.
Parents’ questions and search for solutions
In Africa, parents are asking the same “universal” questions about how technology impacts their children: how can they control screen time? What are the consequences for schoolwork? How can they maintain parental influence when children understand new technologies better than them…?
To support parents, Orange Senegal (Sonatel) has set up initiatives such as “Better Internet for Kids”, which translate our role as an operator into meeting local needs. A “parents’ guide”, which is written with experts, offers advice on the best practices to adopt. There is also a “parents’ course” run every month so they can ask invited experts and Orange Senegal (Sonatel) specialists about hot topics such as data protection, video games and parental control.
Informing people about the best digital usesl
The “Better Internet for Kids” programme also aims to raise awareness of smarter tech use among young people. In Senegal, Lamine Gakou explains, this translates into creating a community of young ambassadors (about 20 for the launch this year) to coach people on best practices.
These Orange Senegal (Sonatel) ambassadors were trained and went on to organise a dozen awareness-raising activities called “Instants B.I.K.” in the suburbs of Dakar, at sporting events or at the beach during school holidays. There are plenty of opportunities to share ideas on the latest tech topics in fun ways.
Promoting digital inclusion
In Africa, using digital positively also means making it available to as many children as possible. Orange Senegal (Sonatel) ensures digital inclusion is a priority through a nationwide school tour in order to:
- encourage young girls to study more science and technology based subjects;
- introduce digital tools in rural areas.
A total of 2,000 children were introduced to coding in 2019 and the 2020 goal is to train 10,000 children in partnership with our various stakeholders and support from the Ministry of National Education throughout the national territory.
Becoming an empowered digital “actor”
It’s really important that Orange Senegal (Sonatel) helps young people to move beyond their role as mere consumers of platforms to become empowered digital actors.
Using digital responsibly is a great development tool for everyone. When used well, technology facilitates sharing, creativity, cultural openness and more. However, “the potential is the greatest in education” explains Lamine Gakou.
The example was given with the recently opened coding school at the Orange Digital Center in Dakar. A hundred students take part on site, and about double that number follow distance courses.
It’s in this same vein that our “Better Internet for Kids” programme runs regular introductory workshops on coding, mobile application development, robotics or science initiation. These courses take kids and teens behind the scenes when it comes to using technology creatively. According to Lamine Gakou, it’s really important that: “Orange Senegal (Sonatel) helps young people to move beyond their role as mere consumers of platforms to become empowered digital actors.”