Emerging Trends | ICT4SDG | SDG4
March 5, 2013

The impact of broadband on global access to education

By Doreen Bogdan

According to UNESCO, in 2010, 61 million childrenof primary-school age, and a further 71 million of lower secondary-school age, were not in school. Research also indicates that 1.7 million extra teachers will be needed to achieve universal primary education.

In addition, close to 793 million adults – 64% of them women – lacked literacy skills, with the lowest rates in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Africa.

A new report titled – Technology, Broadband and Education: Advancing the Education for All Agenda – developed by the Broadband Commission for Digital Development highlights strategies for leveraging high-speed networks to realize the goal of providing education for all.

The report is the result of collaborative input from a large number of Commissioners and their organizations, including Alcatel-Lucent, the Connect-to-Learn partnership (The Earth Institute, Colombia University/Ericsson/Millennium Promise), Intel, the Inter-American Development Bank, Broadband Commissioners Suvi LindénJasna Matić and Ivo Ivanovski, and Special Advisor to the Commission, Paul Budde.

Broadband networks have the potential to radically alter the education landscape, creating new centres of learning in the developing world, extending access to distance learning programmes to outlying communities, and helping poorer countries retain high-performing students who can help lift their nations out of poverty.

Distance learning strategies can not only help nations educate children and adults living in remote communities, but broadband-based education programmes could also become a source of income for those national higher education institutions that succeed in designing compelling, world class curriculums tailored to the needs of the billions living in the developing world.

The newly published report also emphasizes the importance of deployment of broadband as a means of accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goal of Universal Primary Educationand UNESCO’s Education for All goals.

It also recognizes that participation in the global economy is increasingly dependent on skills in navigating the digital world, but warns that traditional school curricula still tend to prioritize the accumulation of knowledge above its application, and fail to train students in the ICT literacy skills they will need to ensure their employability in tomorrow’s knowledge economy.

ITU Secretary-General, Dr. Hamadoun I. Touré has spoken about the ability of broadband to improve and enhance education, as well as students’ experience of education.

“A good and well-rounded education is the basis on which future livelihoods and families are founded, and education opens up minds, as well as job prospects. A student in a developing country can now access the library of a prestigious university anywhere in the world; an unemployed person can retrain and improve their job prospects in other fields; teachers can gain inspiration and advice from the resources and experiences of others. With each of these achievements, the online world brings about another real-world victory for education, dialogue, and better understanding between peoples,” said Dr. Touré.

The current mobile and Internet revolution provides all countries, especially developing and least developed ones, with unprecedented opportunities.

Within this context, broadband has the potential to provide access to quality education for all and to empower all citizens with the knowledge, skills and values they need to live and work successfully in the digital age.

The report will be presented to all Commissioners at the 7th meeting of the Broadband Commission, which takes place on March 17 in Mexico City, hosted by the Carlos Slim Foundation.

For more information on the Broadband Commission, visit: www.broadbandcommission.org
Follow the Broadband Commission on Facebook: www.facebook.com/broadbandcommission
Follow the Broadband Commission on Twitter: www.itu.int/twitter

Mrs. Doreen Bogdan was appointed the Chief of the Strategic Planning and Membership Department in the General Secretariat as from 1 January 2008. She was previously the Head of the ITU/BDT Regulatory and Market Environment Division and was responsible for the programmes on Regulatory Reform and Economics and Finance.
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ITU is the United Nations' specialized agency for information and communication technology. Any opinions expressed and statistics presented by third parties do not necessarily reflect the views of ITU.

The impact of broadband on global access to education

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