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 (, 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.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.


Log in;
  1. Patrick Kovarik/Getty Images

    The Summit of Climate Hopes

    Presidents, prime ministers, and policymakers gather in Paris today for the One Planet Summit. But with no senior US representative attending, is the 2015 Paris climate agreement still viable?

  2. Trump greets his supporters The Washington Post/Getty Images

    Populist Plutocracy and the Future of America

    • In the first year of his presidency, Donald Trump has consistently sold out the blue-collar, socially conservative whites who brought him to power, while pursuing policies to enrich his fellow plutocrats. 

    • Sooner or later, Trump's core supporters will wake up to this fact, so it is worth asking how far he might go to keep them on his side.
  3. Agents are bidding on at the auction of Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

    The Man Who Didn’t Save the World

    A Saudi prince has been revealed to be the buyer of Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi," for which he spent $450.3 million. Had he given the money to the poor, as the subject of the painting instructed another rich man, he could have restored eyesight to nine million people, or enabled 13 million families to grow 50% more food.

  4.  An inside view of the 'AknRobotics' Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    Two Myths About Automation

    While many people believe that technological progress and job destruction are accelerating dramatically, there is no evidence of either trend. In reality, total factor productivity, the best summary measure of the pace of technical change, has been stagnating since 2005 in the US and across the advanced-country world.

  5. A student shows a combo pictures of three dictators, Austrian born Hitler, Castro and Stalin with Viktor Orban Attila Kisbenedek/Getty Images

    The Hungarian Government’s Failed Campaign of Lies

    The Hungarian government has released the results of its "national consultation" on what it calls the "Soros Plan" to flood the country with Muslim migrants and refugees. But no such plan exists, only a taxpayer-funded propaganda campaign to help a corrupt administration deflect attention from its failure to fulfill Hungarians’ aspirations.

  6. Project Syndicate

    DEBATE: Should the Eurozone Impose Fiscal Union?

    French President Emmanuel Macron wants European leaders to appoint a eurozone finance minister as a way to ensure the single currency's long-term viability. But would it work, and, more fundamentally, is it necessary?

  7. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now