Country to lay the groundwork for new financing models, partners and digital tools to close the digital divide.
The Government of Kazakhstan, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) agreed to collaborate on GIGA, a UNICEF-ITU global initiative to connect every school to the Internet and every young person in Kazakhstan to information, opportunity and choice.
Launched in 2019, GIGA sets the goal of providing connectivity to every school in the world. Some 3.7 billion people in the world do not have access to the Internet, of whom 360 million are young people. A lack of access to the Internet means children and young people are excluded from the wealth of information available online, limiting their resources to learn and to grow, and to fulfill their potential. Closing the digital divide requires global cooperation, leadership, and innovation in finance and technology.
“The joint UNICEF-ITU global initiative GIGA aims to bridge the digital divide between urban and rural education. It is important to note that providing remote villages with broadband Internet access is one of the most central areas of the work of our ministry,” said Askar Zhumagaliyev, Minister of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry of the Republic of Kazakhstan. “Telecom operators have laid thousands of kilometers of fiber-optic communication lines to villages. Within the framework of this project alone, we provided access to high-speed Internet for 446 rural schools, and by the end of this year there will be 1,342 such schools. Therefore, supporting GIGA is a logical step for us to further expand the access of rural schoolchildren of Kazakhstan to online educational resources,” he concluded.
According to ITU, the official source for global ICT statistics, nearly 80 per cent of the population in Kazakhstan uses the Internet, but the figure across the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region ranges between 21 per cent and 81 per cent. Kazakhstan is among the countries with the highest level of mobile-broadband penetration in the CIS region. The country is also a regional leader in access to computers and offered the lowest price per gigabyte of all CIS countries with capped entry-level fixed-broadband plans in 2017.
“This partnership with the Government of Kazakhstan is integral to our acceleration of GIGA – as a lead country in this first phase of a global rollout, Kazakhstan will lay the groundwork for new financing models, partners and digital tools – and ultimately opportunity and choice for every young person. This work is critical to closing the digital divide in Central Asia and around the world,” said Arthur van Diesen, UNICEF Representative in Kazakhstan.
“ITU’s exciting new joint project with UNICEF stems from my cast-iron conviction about the importance of empowering young people,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau. “Kazakhstan’s commitment to school connectivity is one of the government’s most important and far-reaching decisions, because it is the youth of today who will drive the next wave of digital progress. Furthermore, the GIGA project contributes to the ITU Connect 2030 Agenda, which among others, aims to bridge the digital divide and provide broadband access to all.”
What is GIGA?
GIGA has four pillars: map every school in the world, finance a common bid that can aggregate connectivity demand, connect every school to the Internet, and empower young people with digital skills for the future.
GIGA is aligned with Kazakhstan’s digitalization and connectivity vision, the country’s commitment to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and with the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation’s findings 1A and 1B which state, respectively, that by “2030 every adult should have affordable access to digital networks” and calls for “a broad, multi-stakeholder alliance, involving the UN, create a platform for sharing digital public goods.”
The signing of the collaboration agreement took place on the sides of Digital Almaty Forum, which brings together decision-makers, leading CEOs, international experts and mass media to discuss global digitalization trends, share experiences in digital transformation, and develop common approaches in regional cooperation.