Daily CSR
Daily CSR

Daily CSR
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3 key reasons why broadband connectivity matters for children


3 key reasons why broadband connectivity matters for children
How different do you believe your life and opportunities would have been if you had never experienced connectivity?

Unfortunately, this is the reality for hundreds of millions of children around the world today. According to the ITU's latest State of Broadband report, an estimated 2.7 billion people do not have access to connectivity today, with a large proportion coming from low and middle-income economies. According to UNICEF figures, this meant that 463 million children were denied access to remote learning as a result of the pandemic. To put that figure in context, it is slightly more than half of Europe's total population.
Connectivity at school matters
Living without connectivity or the skills to reap the benefits of connectivity cuts you off from a world of possibilities. Because of the increasing prominence of using digital tools and learning content in education systems and emerging hybrid learning models, connectivity creates pathways to a better future for children in particular.

It is also not enough for schools to be connected; they must be connected in a meaningful way. The ITU- and UNESCO-led Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development's Connecting Learning Spaces: Possibilities for Hybrid Learning report highlights the importance of meaningful connectivity for schools, allowing larger numbers of students to learn online, using multiple devices and a wider range of applications, but it also provides more opportunities for experiential (located, remote, and problem- and project-based) learning in the field and on the job. Setting minimum bandwidth targets for schools can help to ensure that connectivity is adequate, core functions can be performed, and costing is realistic and transparent.

Then there are the macroeconomic benefits of providing meaningful connectivity to schools. According to research from an Economist Intelligence Unit study commissioned by Ericsson, better school connectivity would result in a GDP increase in countries that currently have below-average connectivity. The same study emphasizes the importance of policies and programs that promote social digital inclusion and technology integration in education. Simply put, connecting schools has the potential to generate significant and far-reaching value across all sectors of society.

The following are the key important takeaways were learnt following our collaboration with Giga.
1. Public-private partnerships are crucial to connectivity issues
Ericsson broke new ground two years ago when it became the first private sector partner to make a multimillion-dollar commitment and significant in-kind contribution to the joint UNICEF-ITU Giga initiative. By embarking on that journey, we committed to our belief, based on decades of public-private partnership experience, that successful partnerships cannot be built solely on financial support. Rather, when you combine our technology leadership and unique industry insights with the other key ingredients, we can help to drive change more efficiently with our partners.

We have demonstrated that working together, public and private actors can enact real change in the world by deploying technology for good, collaborating, co-creating, and innovating in new ways. To scale the impact and potential of Giga, we invite other leaders in the private sector to join us on this journey.

2. Technical expertise and innovation key to grasping scale of issues
You can't solve a problem until you understand it completely. The first and most important step is to identify the underlying barriers to connectivity. And for Giga, this entails mapping school locations as well as connectivity and coverage levels - where are the schools, how well are existing networks covering them (if at all), and are they even connected? Is the connectivity meaningful if they are? What are the barriers if they aren't connected?

Today, thanks to our financial contribution and the expertise of our data scientists, we have assisted Giga in establishing a foundation that has connected over two million children and students worldwide and has the potential to connect millions more.

Mapping the availability of internet connectivity across the world's schools has become a critical tool for Giga, allowing it to identify gaps and prioritize resources and actions accordingly.

We accomplished this through the development of novel methodologies and data pipelines by our data scientists, which have now assisted Giga in mapping the mobile network coverage of 466,371 unique school locations across 34 countries. In doing so, we are, in many cases, shining a light on the unconnected and allowing them to be seen for the first time.

Our broader employee base's engagement and commitment has also been critical to this process. To assist Giga in the development of its mapping solutions, we have enlisted the assistance of all of our employees worldwide to assist in the tagging of school locations from satellite images. The findings assist Giga in training critical machine learning algorithms that can aid in the automation of the process of identifying school locations based on satellite images. Our employees contributed a total of 150,538 individual validations of 1,500 images of schools in South Africa, Costa Rica, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Kenya, and Brazil.
3. The need for meaningful connectivity
The quality and speed of connectivity are also important factors in delivering meaningful use cases. Following the recommendation in the Broadband Commission's Connected Learning Spaces: Possibilities for Hybrid Learning report published last year, Giga has identified 20 Mbps as the minimum standard for schools to support meaningful educational use cases such as working online, watching online videos, supporting multiple video-streams per school, and enabling access to cloud-based apps.

Ericsson's developers collaborated with the Giga team to co-create a unique application that is currently being deployed to monitor and assess school connectivity performance on a daily basis. The application sends data speeds from schools to UNICEF servers, allowing Giga and the schools to monitor service quality, analyze potential improvements, and hold service providers accountable.

Through creativity, impactful partnerships, and a desire to affect positive change in the world. This blueprint, in my opinion, is one of the solutions to the school connectivity problem, providing hundreds of millions of children with opportunities for a better future.

While private and public actors have made some progress in connecting the unconnected this year, and can be proud of it, it is clear that there is still much ground to cover to connect the remaining third of the world's population.

As the world enters a new digital age, we must never stop working to connect the disconnected and ensure equal access to digital tools and services, as well as the opportunities they provide. In order to achieve that goal, we must not abandon any country, city, town, village, school, or child.