“The digitalization train, are there tickets for all?”, Karina Gómez, Commercial and Social Manager of Fondo Esperanza

Station 1: The impact of the pandemic: new gaps appear

"The development of tools and contents for groups in vulnerability must be consistent with a multidimensional vision of poverty"

The pandemic accelerated the onboarding of millions of people on the digitalization train, however these journeys generally go at such a rate that many men and women are falling behind with these transformations. They are the people in vulnerability who run the greatest risk of being loaded down by a new vulnerability to add to their already complex situation of multiple exclusions, with the appearance of new gaps. These include:

The access gap: although 97% of the world’s population lives within range of a mobile phone signal, and 95% in areas covered by mobile broadband networks (3G or above), currently only 66% use the internet. 82% of homes in urban areas have internet access, whereas for rural areas this figure falls to 46%. (ITU, 2022)

The gender gap: 63% of the world’s women still do not use the internet, compared to 69% of men. According to Unesco, globally, men are 25% more likely to have the knowledge and skills needed to use this technology than women.

The generation gap: an example of this gap is to be found in the latest diagnosis of digital inclusion gaps in Chile, where only 31.5% of adults over 60 years old use the internet versus an average of 82.7% among the population under that age.  

Station 2: The ticket

Technology is a tool that makes it easier for people to interact and exercise their rights, such as access to education, healthcare, or work, among others, in the digital era. The challenge we face as institutions serving the most vulnerable is finding the ticket for the train to these transformations; the question is how to include them? 

One of the most frequent responses is the flourishing of digital platforms that accompany people in this training process. However, are they the right ticket for digital inclusion? In our experience, while ad hoc platforms must form part of the solution, in the case of the most excluded, it is still far from being enough. 

Station 3: We cannot limit ourselves solely to digital tools for digital training

One of the most important things we have learned when digitalizing those with the widest gaps is that it is impossible to use solely digital means in the process of digital inclusion. Mere access to platforms and apps is not sufficient; it is vital to work on mentoring and usage. This is why digital inclusion cannot be carried out exclusively through digital channels; this enabling process must also be done face to face, even if that sounds paradoxical.

Station 4: They are not alone


Karina Gómez, Commercial and Social Manager of Fondo Esperanza

There are key players in digitalization beyond the public-private institutions that have designed programs and technologies: We are referring to the son/daughter, the neighbor, who is more skilled in this area and to the community referents, who have supported every transformation process for people in the most vulnerable groups. Therefore, to rely on this network of community trainers is to be recommended when designing any kind of digital training initiative, as they provide sustainability over time for every intervention or service model.

 Station 5: Digital training for entrepreneurs at the base of the pyramid, a pathway

When we look at the entrepreneurs’ paths of resilience during the pandemic, we note a significant move forward in the use of digital trading platforms; however, we also find evidence that these were not enough on their own as a subsistence route for everyone (BBVAMF COVID survey).

So we return to the question posed at the outset, are there travel tickets for all? The answer is no. The fact that the most excluded are being left behind requires us to act urgently, because the gaps that are opening up are unacceptable. But we see a path if we enable people digitally, if we mentor them face to face, if we create and foster links.  We also see that we should add user-friendly platforms, with designs that acknowledge these gaps and diversity, that enable those who see this digital world as something that is remote and causes anxiety to have a space for learning, and above all a route to follow.

This process is far from automatic. It is a route for empowerment, because digital training should not be only about content, but about developing skills and practices that should become part of the daily routine of the people for whom we work and who inspire our actions. This, when designing training for the most vulnerable, should be our central principle. 

Station 6: Fondo Esperanza School for Entrepreneurs, one of the “tickets” with which we want to contribute

To carry on accompanying thousands of entrepreneurs on their journeys, in Fondo Esperanza we have modernized our education model, delivering more and better tools. That is why we have created the new Digital School for Entrepreneurs, a platform with multiple educational resources, that complement and extend the learning modules that group lending banks provide in their group spaces.

The development of tools and contents for groups in vulnerability must be consistent with a multidimensional vision of poverty. That is why the platform has a range of development areas: business growth, empowerment and gender, family wellbeing, social capital, and digitalization. 

In turn, to make the educational proposal more robust, we have designed a model to assess the training material that enables us to understand the participants’ starting point and how their learning is moving forward. Our social performance model measures these same areas, which gives us a longitudinal vision of entrepreneurs’ progress. 

We must make the most of the digital revolution as an opportunity to reach everyone, so finding the most appropriate tickets is critical. Mechanisms that are solid and scalable, so that in the near future we can say with confidence that we have made high quality digital training available to the most excluded, with our very best efforts, so that the train reaches its destination.