Connectivity for All
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.