‘We Think Digital’ is Meta’s global digital literacy program that aims to develop digital skills to create a positive and safe culture online. In 2020, the program was launched in Sri Lanka by Meta in partnership with Sarvodaya-Fusion’s ‘IT Yahamaga’ initiative, which is supported by the Ministry of Education, and the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA). This collaboration helped educate students, youth, and adults with the necessary skills to become responsible digital citizens. In 2021, a new program was introduced with the goal of educating school and university students, psycho-social counsellors, youth club members, and women across the country on the effective and ethical use of digital tools while being cautious and conscious of their online safety and teaching them to be confident digital citizens.
The new pilot is predominantly aimed at increasing inclusivity in the society by focussing on = children and youth with hearing impairment and hearing-loss. It will be carried out as a national-level program with the partnership of the Non-formal and Special Needs Unit of the Ministry of Education, ICTA), Meta, and the Sri Lanka Central Federation of the Deaf (SLCFD).
Tahani Iqbal, Public Policy Manager for Connectivity and Access Policy at Meta, said “In today’s world, it’s crucial to know how to navigate the digital space and make it more inclusive. Through a program like ‘We Think Digital’, we are providing necessary skills and awareness about online behavior and how to become better digital citizens. It’s truly gratifying to see this program take on a life of its own and help connect people with disabilities to new opportunities.”
‘We Think Digital’ with ‘IT Yahamaga’ is designed to break social and physical barriers and ensure that communities with disabilities are made aware of how technology can be used to improve their quality of life and gain more opportunities while ensuring a safe digital environment. The program content is curated to suit two target audiences; school children aged 14-18yrs and youth aged above 18yrs. These programs will be carried out in-person, with sign language interpretation, including visually appealing content and slide decks to maintain interest and engagement.
The President of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, Dr, Vinya Ariyaratne commented on the initiative saying, “It is our firm belief at Sarvodaya that technology is the way of the future, not only in creating opportunities for people but also to increase inclusivity and bridge inequality and connect people. It is with a great sense of pride that we introduce the ‘We Think Digital’ program alongside our ‘IT Yahamaga’ initiative for people with hearing-impairment, with the goal of not only creating a safe environment online, but also providing a platform for those children and youth who are challenged due to physical ailments, to significantly improve their quality of life.”
In Sri Lanka, there are approximately 25 actively operating schools for hearing-impaired students, and the students from said schools will be reached out through the partnership of the Non-formal and Special Needs Unit of the Ministry of Education. Those who are above the age of 18 will be reached out through the Sri Lanka Central Federation of the Deaf.
Sarvodaya-Fusion has a strong belief that technology can be used to bridge the gap between equality and inclusivity in society. It is for this reason that this pilot program aims to start off with this specific segment. The need to educate the vulnerable and often excluded communities on the safe and ethical use of the online world is of paramount importance. It is expected with the outcomes and learnings of this pilot, to reach out to many other disabled communities in the future.