Ericsson and UNICEF have announced a global partnership to help map school connectivity in 35 countries by the end of 2023. Mapping the internet connectivity landscape for schools and their surrounding communities is a critical first step towards providing every child with access to digital learning opportunities.
This joint effort is part of the Giga initiative. Launched last year and led by UNICEF and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Giga aims to connect every school to the internet. Ericsson is the first private sector partner to make a multimillion-dollar commitment to the initiative and does so as a Global UNICEF Partner for School Connectivity Mapping.
According to the ITU, 360 million young people currently do not have access to the internet. This results in exclusion, fewer resources to learn, and limited opportunities for the most vulnerable children and youth to fulfill their potential. Improved connectivity will increase access to information, opportunity, and choice, enabling generations of school children to take part in shaping their own futures.
“The deepening digital divide is one of the many inequalities that the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored,” said Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Deputy Executive Director, Partnerships, UNICEF. “School closures, coupled with limited or non-existent 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. Specifically, Ericsson will assist with 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 and young people. Ericsson will also engage its extensive customer base to further advance the goals of the Giga initiative.
“Ericsson is uniquely positioned to be a key partner in helping address this important issue due to our technology expertise, global scale, decades of experience in public/private partnerships, and proven results connecting students and educators,” said Heather Johnson, Vice President of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility, Ericsson. “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.”
“ITU brings a history of technology policy advocacy and regulatory expertise to the vital mission of connecting every school in the world,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director, ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau. “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 that aims to give young people digital skills so they can fully and meaningfully participate in the digital economy. Generation Unlimited is a global multi-sector partnership to meet the urgent need for expanded education, training and employment opportunities for young people. Additionally, the partnership supports UNICEF’s recent COVID-19 Agenda for Action in which the organization called for global action to keep children learning, thereby requiring the prioritization of internet connectivity in rural and remote areas.