‘Virtual meetings relegating rural communities’ 

Source: ‘Virtual meetings relegating rural communities’ – NewsDay Zimbabwe


Lack of universal and affordable access to the internet may widen inequalities within countries, in the process marginalising rural communities.

Speaking at a recent Hivos-organised  workshop, Kennedy Mugochi, who is the regional director for Hivos Southern Africa, said that although it was good to adopt innovative ways to counter the COVID-19 pandemic, there was need to include everyone in the drive.

“It all (is) good that we are finding innovative ways to move from physical meetings to online meetings to ensure that we continue with development work,” Mugochi said.

“When we move to those platforms, we need to be mindful of the inequalities that are being created because these are online-based, which means we need data in the form of internet.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic hitting globally, it has seen a shift by many organisations in the development sector from physical trainings to virtual online trainings. Schools pupils have also been learning virtually.

Many countries enforced lockdown measures, which did not allow people to meet in big numbers.

This has seen many communities not benefiting from activities conducted by civic organisations virtually, which is a cause for concern.

Mugochi said the duty of civil society was to improve the lives of women and ensure they are not left out in these virtual trainings.

“We should strive to improve the conditions of women wherever they are in Zimbabwe,” he said.

Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Broadcasting Services chairperson Sipho Mokone said the emergence of digital platforms for communication had excluded women and created inequalities and this could be attributed to the lockdown measures.

“The emergence of Zoom webinars and WhatsApp calls has had a negative impact on women because as you know, these platforms are very expensive, for one to participate massive data is needed,” the MP said.

“Women both in the urban and rural setting cannot afford the data. COVID-19 has affected women greatly as most of them depend on vending as a source of income. Lockdown restrictions have made it close to impossible for most women to continue in the informal sector. This then means that there is no income and no money to buy data.”