Much has been made of the education system in South Africa in the past year, with the pandemic highlighting glaring holes that need addressing. One of these is connectivity, with those schools connected to the internet faring far better than those without. It is why a new report commissioned by Ericsson is of particular interest, as the impact that connecting schools has on a nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been evaluated.
Conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the report explains that connecting schools in nations with low or poor broadband connectivity can have a direct impact on GDP, potentially increasing it by as much as 20 percent.
“A well-educated workforce is more likely to be innovative and foster ground-breaking ideas, leading to economic development and job creation. EIU analysis shows that for every 10 percent increase in school connectivity in a country, GDP per capita could increase by 1.1 percent,” the report points out.
In the report, it looks at the West African country of Niger and what would happen if it had school connectivity comparable to that of Scandinavian nation Finland.
“The report finds that improvements in school connectivity to Finnish levels could increase GDP per capita by almost 20 percent – from USD 550 per person in the baseline, to USD 660 per person by 2025,” according to the EIU.
Along with pointing out what could potentially happen if governments took a more proactive approach to connecting schools, the report also outlines some key steps that need to taken in order to bring such a plan to fruition:
• “Collaboration is key: A holistic, public/private partnership strategy is needed to coordinate efforts with stakeholders to overcome barriers to school connectivity.
• Accessibility and affordability: Building infrastructure to enable access to the internet is a starting point. Quality of connection and cost are important factors as well.
• Embedding internet and digital tools into education: Once access to school connectivity is achieved, it must be embedded into the curriculum. Teachers must be trained to integrate technology into everyday learning.
• Protecting children online: School connectivity provides opportunities for children. Additional steps must be taken to ensure healthy and protected online learning environments. Internet usage must be properly managed to ensure safe and secure use.”
The report also recommends that public, private and NGO sector leaders around the world can make a dramatic impact towards bridging the digital divide by joining forces to make internet connectivity a global reality for school children. As we have seen in the past few months, much like the enterprise and business spheres, the education industry needs to focus on digital transformation too, and internet connectivity is the first step in making that happen.
Ericsson is directing those who have the power to make a difference to a collaborative initiative being run with UNICEF and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) called Giga.
“When Giga was announced, we immediately understood the positive impact it could deliver – bridging the digital divide between and within countries, to give children the world over the opportunity of bright and rewarding futures,” says Heather Johnson, VP of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility at Ericsson.
“The report makes it clear that partnership between business leaders, public sector leaders and NGOs can take effective action to address this issue and significantly impact lives. Every player in these sectors, no matter how big or small, can make a difference. We encourage stakeholders to read the report and more importantly join the Giga initiative to help realise this important goal,” Johnson adds.