Hosting of Giga

Request for Expression of Interest

Closing on 1 November 2021
UNICEF and ITU kindly invite proposals for hosting the Giga team (up to 40 people) in a city that can lend its culture of moonshot entrepreneurship to the UN’s flagship initiative for last mile school connectivity.

Giga, the UNICEF-ITU partnership to connect every school in the world, is the only named initiative for connectivity in both the Secretary-General’s Common Agenda, as well as his Roadmap for Digital Cooperation. The partnership has made substantial progress in mapping almost 1M schools, conceptualizing a 5B$ connectivity bond, and connecting over 3,000 schools in Giga ‘accelerate’ countries. 

Hosting this “startup from within the UN” that focuses on school connectivity would include championing of Giga at the highest international level, supporting key programmatic running costs, contributing financial expertise to the team building and issuing the Giga Bond, and providing a global, neutral home for a team of experts in technology, infrastructure, finance, and development.

Giga will be a unique collaboration point in a host city as it bridges the world of financial institutions (through its Connectivity Bond, its work on cryptocurrency, and collaboration with infrastructure financing arms of IFI/DFI partners) with the world of international relations and development. This UNICEF-ITU partnership can be a valuable example of this hybrid future. Giga, and the team behind it, has attracted some of the best minds in technology startup and financing, and would be a vibrant part of any city’s technology ecosystem – creating jobs, networks, and connections in infrastructure, fintech, and machine learning.

Giga has been incubated by UNICEF’s Office of Innovation, as well as the ITU BDT, and Giga will continue to work closely with both units in the respective organizations as it evolves. In addition to the unique staff and mandate of this team, they will create a center of gravity, on the international stage, for visitors working on open public infrastructure, digitalization, and the future of connectivity.

Hosting Giga presents an attractive option for many reasons, including positioning the host as:

  • A leader in the response to the connectivity elements of the UN Secretary-General’s 2021 “Common Agenda.”
  • A global hub for the infrastructure development that connects international cooperation, technology, and finance.
  • A center for work around school connectivity, including a community for growth and expansion of startups focused on a digital market.
  • A leader in helping raising pledges from sovereign states and private sector partners for the 5B$ Giga Connectivity Bond.

The host will also have a seat on the Giga Interim Advisory Board.

Please indicate by 1 November 2021 if you would be interested in supporting at or above the levels indicated below. This submission is non-binding and for exploratory purposes only.

Please provide estimated figures accompanied with a 100-200-word description of interest or “no” if not possible/interested for an initial 5-year period, with the possibility of extension to a 10-year term.

  • Funding to support Giga relocation and operational costs and a portion of Giga programme costs
  • In-kind support, including secondments, JPOs, and modern office space (~40 staff/visitors)
  • Liaison and ambassadorial support with other Government agencies, financial institutions, and other countries
  • Support and champion the development and acquisition of pledges for the 5B$ donor-backed Giga connectivity bond

Hosting For Giga Secretariat

In addition to the standard expectations from a host (host agreement, staff support, etc.) we highlight four main areas where Giga would particularly focus on assessing a proposal: Timeline, Office Space, Budget, and Championship.

Timeline from a Giga Host

  • If Giga is to move to a host city (staff are currently located between New York and Geneva, as well as globally) we would expect a timeline for a proposed partnership to extend at minimum five (5) years with a possibility of extension until 2030.
  • Within the first year, Giga would commit to moving key senior staff to the hosting location, and begin setting events, conferences, and meetings.
  • By the end of the first year Giga would also expect to be hiring substantially (based on expected budgetary inflow) from in and around the host territory.
  • A minimum of a five-year relationship will allow alignment with Giga’s planning cycles, staff to feel comfortable with relocation, and the formal relationship to be established with the host government.

Office Space Expectations (5 year horizon, with potential extension)

  • Giga currently has ~25 staff members across New York, Geneva, and distributed globally.
  • Based on a review by Deloitte, as well as Giga’s Interim Advisory Group, the expectation is that the team would grow to ~40.
  • Because of this expected growth we would encourage the Host to provide an offer of modern, modular office space for the Giga team.

Budget Expectations (5-10 year horizon)

  • While Giga is raising money for its programmatic work, as well as in the midst of launching a Connectivity Bond (Donor-backed, a la Gavi), the Host would also be expected to contribute core costs to co-fund Giga’s independent activities, programme work, and core staff.
  • A minimum floor for these costs would be in the $5-10M per year range plus installation costs for staff, and would form a major contribution to the ongoing running of Giga’s Secretariat.

City/National Championship

Finally, we would expect a Host for Giga to provide us with the ‘relationship managers’ as well as several key ‘torchbearers’ in the Government.  We would hope and expect that these torchbearers would be internationally recognized public figures who could speak about last mile infrastructure, and the Giga project, at major events and fora.

We would also expect the Host authorities to provide us with the opportunity to brief these senior ‘torchbearers’ and champions, and would appreciate further detail on who these individuals would be.

Illustrative set of needs for Hosted Space

Please send responses to by 1 November 2021.

Evaluation of proposals

Proposals will be evaluated against the following criteria:

  • Size of financial contribution
  • Number of years the host is willing to contribute to Giga’s, programme work, and core staff expenses
  • Access to senior government officials
  • Relevant Host Country Agreements in place (or clear and fast timeline towards necessary agreements with the UN/UN agencies)
  • Links to national/federal, or regional level initiatives
  • Host city innovation ecosystem
  • Infrastructure
  • Ease of global travel

For more information on Giga, please check the background section below or browse


 Giga was established with the objective of connecting every school to the Internet and, through this, to enable every young person to access information, opportunity, and choice. A joint International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) initiative, Giga serves as a transformative model of global cooperation, bringing together finance and infrastructure to fast-track young people’s access to meaningful connectivity. Closing the digital divide offers transformational potential to fast track progress towards all seventeen of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by enabling interventions and augmenting outcomes for each goal. In fact, it has been suggested that “Connectivity” may indeed be “SDG Zero.”[1]

Giga has made substantial progress toward securing initial financing for operations, supporting the delivery of connectivity in 13 pilot countries, and building partnerships. Giga anticipates additional funding in 2021, plans to launch a US$5 billion connectivity bond, and has received multiple requests for technology transfers to country Governments.

Giga’s future ambition requires a robust Secretariat function capable of delivering across its core methodology to map, connect, and finance connectivity for every school worldwide. The Secretariat, currently with staff spread across ITU’s headquarters in Geneva and UNICEF’s headquarters in New York, is now exploring centralizing the Secretariat into one location. 

There are a range of opportunities that come with the chance to be a host and champion for Giga.  These opportunities include significant support to the setup of the 5B$ Giga Bond, as well as the opportunity to position the host as a leader in global infrastructure connectivity access for the most vulnerable.  A rough analogy can be drawn between Giga, today, and Gavi in its early stages – where host and partner governments played significant roles in amplifying and catalyzing the vaccine supply revolution. 

[1] Roesch, Jimena. 2021. “SDG Zero? A People-Centered Approach to Universal Connectivity.” International Peace Institute.