Towards Sustainable Development: Why we should invest in connectivity and education

Lack of access to the Internet translates into exclusion and being robbed of opportunities for self-improvement and for community empowerment.

The Government of Kazakhstan is one of the leaders in the Central Asian region in terms of digitalization, investment in ICT infrastructure and digital literacy. It ranks 29 among 193 countries for the digitalization of its economy and has made significant efforts to connect villages in rural areas to the Internet and to increase digital literacy levels up to 82.1%. In January this year, Kazakhstan officially joined Giga as regional lead thereby reinforcing their commitment to school connectivity as a mechanism to drive the next wave of digital progress and economic recovery. So far, the connectivity status of 7,410 schools has been mapped through Giga.

In a very interactive session held during the 75th UN General Assembly, the Government of Kazakhstan convened leaders from diverse stakeholder groups including startups and senior-level policy makers to discuss the importance of being connected and to promote transformative models such as Giga, to make the world “digital by default”.

Digital by default only works when connectivity issues are addressed. The pandemic has demonstrated that those who were unconnected prior to the crisis are now further left behind, and as highlighted by Mr. Fabrizio Hochschild, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, the crisis has also showed that affordable connectivity is not only an issue affecting developing countries. During the lockdown, even cities as rich as New York were impacted with 20% of its high schoolers not being able to continue learning due to lack of access to the Internet or devices.

Lack of access to the Internet translates into exclusion and being robbed of opportunities for self-improvement and for community empowerment. Education and connectivity are therefore two very important investments to be pursued in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and to provide the world with a more responsible and equitable path to economic growth.

Current efforts to drive up education and connectivity at the global level should also consider models for adoption at the local level: starting with a countrywide vision but working with people in the field, especially with teachers and local governments. One of the biggest risks will be to precisely only focus on connectivity. Building capacity and developing home grown digital solutions on top of connectivity is fundamental for successful implementations and for driving ownership. Equally important, is the work with communities in order to engage them from the beginning on and to show them the actual benefits that education and connectivity can bring.

Launched in 2019, Giga is a joint ITU-UNICEF global initiative to connect every school to the Internet and every person to information, opportunity and choice. Giga aims to bring the power of meaningful connectivity to fast track young people’s access to educational resources and opportunities, while making sure every child is equipped with the digital public goods they need, and empowered to shape their future and that of their communities. Giga also serves as a platform to create the infrastructure necessary to provide digital connectivity to an entire country, for every community, and for every citizen. It is about using schools to identify demand for connectivity, as well as using schools as an analogy for learning and connecting where entire communities can come together and support the next generation in a world which is increasingly digital, where the skills that are necessarily required are not formal ones, and where learning happens continuously.

This session was co-organized by ITU and UNICEF and is fully accessible on Youtube.


More highlights from speakers and guests:

"Education and digital technology are two of the most important investments the world can make. Giga has to be scaled up by concerted, determined efforts."
Mr. Fabrizio Hochschild, Under-Secretary General of the United Nations
"Connectivity is an obvious choice for Niger - we have the youngest population on earth. We need connectivity to reach our development goals."
H.E. Mr. Ibrahima Guimba-Saidou, Minister of ICT, Director General of ANSI, Niger
"Anyone can be something online. We've seen how economies and communities flourish with friction of ideas - which is only possible when you have more people in that network."
Mr. Yat Siu, Co-Founder and Chairman, Animoca Brands; Founder & CEO, Outblaze
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"The world is increasingly torn apart by the disparity of wealth and connectivity - the polarization is dangerous. It's imperative to start at the root of enabling access to bring up education."
Bill Tai, Co-Founder, Chairman of the Board, Treasure Data; Venture Capitalist
"COVID-19 showed us what connectivity brings to our lives and how connectivity ensures we stay resilient and continuity is ensured."
H.E. Mr. Altynbek Ismailov, Chairman of the State Committee of Information Technologies and Communications, Kyrgyz Republic
"Internet should be part of the basic rights, because it defines whether you have an equal opportunity or not."
Ms. Kavita Gupta, Blockchain, Fintech & Media Expert/ Infrastructure and Technology Financing Expert
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