School, Connect a Community
ITU is launching a new public-private partnership effort to promote broadband school connectivity to serve both students and the communities in which they live. Connected schools have the potential to serve as community ICT centres to provide access to services for persons living in rural, marginal urban and isolated areas, with a particular focus on disadvantaged and vulnerable groups such as women and girls, indigenous people, persons with disabilities and youth and children.
Through Connect a School, Connect a Community, ITU will work with a range of partners to identify and compile best practices on polices, regulation, applications, services and practical experiences to be shared with interested countries through the development of an online Toolkit and related capacity-building activities.
While ICTs provide unprecedented opportunities to accelerate social and economic development, communities that still lack ICT access and know-how are being further marginalized. Providing household or individual connectivity in rural and underserved areas as well as to disadvantaged and vulnerable groups is often too expensive to implement. Smart policies and innovative public-private partnerships promoting community access through schools to provide access to these target groups represent an attractive, affordable and scalable alternative.
Through Connect a School, Connect a Community, ITU and partners will:
- Identify and compile best practices that can be used by policy makers and regulators to connect schools to broadband Internet networks and services
in an online Toolkit;
- Raise global political awareness among education and communication policy makers and regulators in the development of policies and strategies to connect schools as community ICT centres;
- Assist ITU Member States in developing national school ICT
connectivity plans and implementing projects; and,
- Provide capacity building through regional training events on using connected schools as community centres for vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.
Promoting school connectivity to enable schools to serve as community broadband ICT centres involves a series of critical issues which must be addressed holistically. These include understanding and implementing: policy and regulation; cost analysis; technologies for broadband network access, installation of network equipment; access to end-user devices such as laptops; teacher training; basic ICT training and ICT-enabled career training for members of the local community; providing a safe online and physical environment for children, youth and women; providing assistive technologies and an accessible environment for persons with disabilities; developing and accessing content for education; understanding resources such as digital libraries; etc.
While some players have developed best practices related to one or more of these inter-related issues, for example, teacher training and cost studies for connecting schools, there is no comprehensive, “one stop shop” bringing together all best practices systematically and addressing all of the inter-related layers of the school connectivity ecosystem holistically. Moreover, some earlier school connectivity initiatives were designed to promote dial-up or low-speed Internet access rather than broadband Internet access and many countries have yet to develop any school connectivity programmes at all. For all of these reasons, it is timely to develop a comprehensive online Toolkit identifying best practices related to all layers of the school connectivity ecosystem that will serve to inform education and ICT government leaders as well as international/regional organizations, development agencies, NGOs and the private sector seeking to connect schools as community centres.
ITU is reaching out to partners already active in this field. The aim is to build upon existing efforts and join forces to assist interested countries.
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