Dean Rohrer

Connectivity for All

The information-and-communications-technology revolution is surely the most powerful single force for economic development in the world today. In particular, universal connectivity can mobilize the powerful links between education and reduced fertility, faster economic development, and lower environmental degradation.

NEW YORK – It is not every day that one gets to join two global powerhouses to promote a planetary breakthrough, but that is the reality with Connect to Learn (www.connecttolearn.org), a new worldwide initiative to ensure that all children on the planet can attain at least a secondary education. The telecommunications giant Ericsson and the pop singer Madonna are teaming up to get kids into school and connected worldwide through wireless broadband. My colleagues and I at the Earth Institute and the Millennium Promise Alliance are joining the effort. The stakes could not be higher – or the prospects more exciting.

The information-and-communications-technology (ICT) revolution is surely the most powerful single force for economic development in the world today. It is not just in New York, Shanghai, or Paris that one finds a mobile telephone in the hands of each passerby. These days, one finds mobile phones in Nairobi taxis and among camel-herders in Northern Kenya. There are now 4.6 billion mobile subscribers, and the numbers are soaring. An estimated 250 million subscribers live in Sub-Saharan Africa alone.

The spread of 3G (and soon 4G) offers the prospect of a technological breakthrough in education. Suddenly, even remote schools can connect to the Internet and to other schools through a solar panel, low-cost computers, and wireless access. A school that lacked even rudimentary supplies suddenly can have access to the same global store of information as any other place in the world.

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