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Ericsson, Unicef to map school Internet connectivity in 35 countries

11th September 2020

By: Natasha Odendaal

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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Ericsson and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) are planning to map Internet connectivity gaps at schools in 35 countries, including South Africa, by the end of 2023, in a first step to eliminate the digital divide.

The three-year Project Connect initiative was created out of a need to map the connectivity landscape and locations for schools and their surrounding communities, as many records do not exist or are incomplete, hampering connectivity efforts.

This is a critical first step towards providing every child with access to digital learning opportunities in a world where 360-million young people currently do not have access to the Internet.

Improved connectivity will increase access to information, opportunity and choice, enabling generations of school children to take part in shaping their futures.

With a real-time map of every school’s Internet connectivity, the partners will know how best to target the required help, identify where the gaps are, understand the level of connectivity that exists at each school and channel partners and resources to help, where possible.

The partners believe that this information will also ultimately help national governments optimise their education systems, guide resource allocations from partners such as Unicef and other nongovernmental organisations, improve data measurement around Internet connectivity, schools and education, and enable all stakeholders to advocate for increased connectivity around the globe, the project’s website outlines.

The joint effort is part of the Giga initiative launched last year.

Giga, which is led by Unicef and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), aims to connect every school to the Internet.

Ericsson is the first private-sector partner to make a multimillion-dollar commitment to the initiative.

“The deepening digital divide is one of the many inequalities that the Covid-19 pandemic has underscored,” says Unicef partnerships deputy executive director Charlotte Petri Gornitzka.

“School closures, coupled with limited or nonexistent opportunities for remote learning, have upended children’s education worldwide. Our partnership with Ericsson will bring us closer to giving every child and young person access to digital learning opportunities.”

In addition to funding, Ericsson will commit resources for data engineering and data science capacity to accelerate school connectivity mapping, with specific focus on the collection, validation, analysis, monitoring and visual representation of real-time school connectivity data.

The data generated through the mapping will enable governments and the private sector to design and deploy digital solutions that enable learning for children, explains Ericsson sustainability and corporate responsibility VP Heather Johnson, adding that Ericsson will also engage its extensive customer base to further advance the goals of the Giga initiative.

“Working together with partners like Unicef and the ITU amplifies the potential impact of school connectivity and is a concrete first step in helping bridge the digital divide globally.”

“[The] ITU brings a history of technology policy advocacy and regulatory expertise to the vital mission of connecting every school in the world,” adds ITU telecommunication development bureau director Doreen Bogdan-Martin.

“We are thrilled that Ericsson will join Giga and help build the mapping tools necessary to make connecting every school a reality.”

The Unicef-Ericsson partnership also contributes to the Generation Unlimited Global Breakthrough on Digital Connectivity, which aims to provide young people with the digital skills required to participate in the digital economy.

Additionally, the partnership supports Unicef’s recent Covid-19 Agenda for Action, in which the organisation called for global action to ensure children continue to learn, requiring the prioritisation of Internet connectivity in rural and remote areas.

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

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