The digital divide refers to unequal access to digital technology, such as smartphones, laptops and the internet. A lack of digital access and skills can have a significant impact on people’s lives by limiting their access to information and resources, employment opportunities, and education.

The UN Inclusive Digital Economy Scorecard (IDES) is a tool used to support countries in better understanding and monitoring the status of their digital transformation and access to the digital economy and technology.

Martiza Nanau and Gordon Nanau

Martiza Nanau and Gordon Nanau

At the end of 2020, the IDES for the Solomon Islands was 39%, highlighting a substantial digital divide. With 74% of the population living in a rural location and without access to technology, digital literacy is low.

To address digital literacy in disadvantaged rural communities, the Solomon Islands Commonwealth Scholars and Alumni Associations (SICSAA) delivered a two-day STEM Awareness Basic ICT and Digital Skills Workshop at Kulu Community High School, North East Guadalcanal in February 2024. The activity was organised by Commonwealth Scholar Martiza Nanau, Chief Policy Analyst (Cabinet Office), Solomon Islands Government, and Commonwealth Alumnus Dr Gordon Nanau, Senior Lecturer, University of the South Pacific, and supported by fellow Commonwealth Alumni from the Solomon Islands.

The activity promoted the 2023/24 ACEF theme: Small Commonwealth States.

Building STEM skills for everyday life

Ian Mose stands to deliver his session

Ian Mose delivers sessions on ICT skills

The two-day workshop introduced students and teachers at Kulu Community High School to STEM education and the importance of basic IT and digital skills in pursuing these studies. STEM refers to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Through a series of sessions, students and teachers learned about STEM career paths and the ways in which STEM studies can be applied to address real-world challenges, such as roads and transport infrastructure, public health, and information specialists.

Attendees were joined by special guest speaker, Dr Chris Vehe, Solomon Islands Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification, who shared his experiences working in STEM fields. They also participated in a science experiment to calculate density using an egg in water.

Day two of the workshop involved basic IT and digital skills training, during which attendees were taught how to use different computer applications and essential digital skills to support their schoolwork and assignments. They also learned how to use applications to draft CVs and apply for jobs, as well as the importance of email and safely navigating the internet. These sessions were led by Ian Mose, a former high school ICT Teacher in the Solomon Islands.

Promoting lifelong learning

Deputy Principal Madam Doreen May and teacher Lovelyn Tione seated during the workshop

Deputy Principal Madam Doreen May and teacher Lovelyn Tione attending the workshop

At the end of the workshop, SICSAA gathered feedback from attendees on what they had learned and how they could apply this in and outside of the classroom. This provided and opportunity for student and teachers to reflect on their learning and ask further questions.

Through the workshop, SICSAA reached over 20 students and teachers. Including teachers was an important part of their activity, as it ensured they also were aware of the importance of STEM education in the curriculum but also its wider application as a lifelong skill. The session content will also support teachers in improving student access to resources such as computer labs and better internet connectivity.

The workshop was well received by attendees and the school principal and deputy and SICSAA hopes to continue to work with the school to support students and teachers.

Martiza Nanau is a 2022 Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholar from Solomon Islands. She is completing an MSc in Management & Information Systems: Change & Development at the University of Manchester. Dr Gordon Nanau is a 2005 Commonwealth Scholar from Solomon Islands. He completed a PhD in Globalisation, Ethnicity & Governance at the University of East Anglia.