Scaling Up School Connectivity in Kenya 

This case study explores the strategic integration of hard and soft infrastructure in scaling up school connectivity in Kenya, which has attracted new funding. Hard infrastructure refers to essential physical components such as fiber optic cables and routers, forming the backbone of connectivity. Soft infrastructure involves educational programs, teacher training, and digital curriculum development, ensuring the effective use of physical assets to enhance educational outcomes.

UNICEF’s Kenya Office is a testament to UNICEF’s ability to scale up its work on the ground. The office’s unique ability to deliver both hard and soft infrastructure for school connectivity projects represents a model for sustainable and lasting impact, showcasing a comprehensive approach that balances technical expertise with social and cultural considerations. Thanks to the combined impact of these infrastructures, the project not only showed significant learning improvements but also attracted a diverse range of funders. 

Here are the key findings of the study:

Key Finding #1 – Integration of Hard and Soft Infrastructure

UNICEF’s approach to delivering last-mile connectivity in Kenya reinforces the importance of integrating both hard and soft infrastructure. While hard infrastructure (physical connectivity) is crucial, the success of digital adoption also depends on soft infrastructure (digital skills, content delivery). UNICEF’s model demonstrates how these two aspects are interdependent and require a comprehensive approach for effective implementation. 

Key Finding #2 – Strategic Partnerships and Stakeholder Engagement

UNICEF’s success in scaling up school connectivity was facilitated by strategic partnerships with both private and public stakeholders. Long-term agreements with private internet service providers ensured accountability, quality standards, and cost savings. Collaboration with Kenya’s ICT Authority allowed for connectivity to schools near the government-managed fiber backbone at lower costs, showcasing the benefits of public-private partnerships in infrastructure projects. 

Key Finding #3 – Demonstrated Scalability and Impact

The ability to scale up and deliver results efficiently is crucial for attracting additional investment and funding. UNICEF’s track record in Kenya, along with its partnership with ITU through Giga, has demonstrated scalability, leading to new funding from the European Union to connect an additional 1,000 schools. This highlights the importance of demonstrating scalability and impact for attracting further investment in development projects. 

Call to Action

Invest in scalable and integrated approaches to school connectivity, leveraging partnerships and innovative models, to ensure equitable access to digital education for all.