Experimenting, learning, and innovating to improve digital inclusivity and literacy in Mongolia

December 19, 2022

Author: Bulgan Luuzandamba, UNDP Mongolia Accelerator Team

As the technology advances at light speed, many are being left behind, particularly, elders and people with disabilities who not only lack proper digital skills but also the access.  

UNDP Mongolia Accelerator Lab is working to ensure inclusive digital access and digital literacy for the most vulnerable groups in Mongolia. As part our goal, we piloted comprehensive digital skills programme for these target groups to enhance their skills and knowledge.

Digital Literacy Curriculum

Upon reviewing available curriculums developed both in-country and elsewhere, we realized that Microsoft curriculum was more systematic, comprehensive, and complemented by video contents. In addition to that, this was open-source material, which allows adaptation to specific contexts and conditions.

We translated it into Mongolian and supplied it with voice-overs and subtitles to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities. As we rolled out the curriculum, we learned that sign language interpretation would have been more suitable for people with hearing disabilities, rather than subtitles.

Another very important learning was that most of the digital education contents don’t reach its target audience because those in charge of developing the content don’t make it accessible to public. To avoid this, we placed our contents on several platforms that can be accessed by everyone.

Despite such efforts, we were still not getting enough engagement, which is where we realized that we must raise awareness and do outreach campaigns, so that more people learn about our programme.

Online outreach campaign

According to the Digital skills assessment we conducted in 2021, we knew that elders and people with disabilities don’t often get the support they need, as family members get irritated when explaining, especially when the same question is asked repeatedly.

As Facebook is the most popular social media in Mongolia, we created a page “Tsahimjikh uu? TA”, which can be translated as “Would you go digital?” that served as a platform, where the target groups and their family members could find different content on digital literacy. It featured video contents, educational and entertainment posts, and re-shares of already available contents, created by other enthusiasts. We also tried out live sessions for those who needed more personal assistance to the problems they faced.

Within 1.5 month, we gauged interest and engagement of over 200 thousand people and learned that it was important to provide simple and straightforward content that is closely related to daily life. Running successful online campaign requires full time commitment, including timely response to queries and continuous content uploading to keep the interest going.

More importantly, we realized that we are not reaching to our target group directly, as they couldn’t get any information unless someone close to them shown our contents to them. So, we understood that we need to directly engage with our target group via in-person training.

Digital skills training

Through our digital skills assessment, we learned that elders think that technology is not designed for them and many feel left behind. In partnership with professional training organization, we organized a series of digital skills training based on the Microsoft Digital Skills curriculum for nearly 100 elders.

The training provided basic computer usage knowledge followed by topics such as communicating effectively online, ensuring safety and security, as well as creating digital content. We learned that while the needs and learning skills of the participants varied between different age groups, it is important to create a learning environment with properly functioning equipment, maintain proper class size no more than 10 at a time to ensure more personalized support, actively encourage participants to try things themselves and be confident while ensuring to use simple, everyday vocabulary when explaining different functions of the programme.

Through this comprehensive experimentation, we have learned that being inclusive in our approach means making sure that we think of all the small but important details of accessibility from programme development to awareness raising and in-person training while being fully aware of the specific traits and limitations of our target group. We are confident that the lessons learned here will be integral component for any programmes and projects that are in process of developing inclusive digital content in Mongolia.