An Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) report sponsored by Ericsson has found that nations with low broadband connectivity have the potential to realize an increase in GDP by up to 20 per cent by connecting schools to the internet.
According to the report, a well-educated workforce would be more likely to be innovative and foster ground-breaking ideas, leading to economic development and job creation.
The EIU analysis shows that for every 10 per cent increase in school connectivity in a country, GDP per capita could increase by 1.1 per cent.
Among West African countries, the report indicated that improvements in school connectivity to finnish levels could increase GDP per capita by almost 20 per cent, from $550 per person in the baseline, to $660 per person by 2025.
The report focused on four key actions to make a change, which it listed to include: Collaboration, Accessibility, Embedding Internet and Protecting Children Online.
In the area of collaboration, the report said a holistic, public/private partnership strategy would be needed to coordinate efforts with stakeholders to overcome barriers to school connectivity. For Accessibility and affordability, the report explained that building infrastructure to enable access to the internet, would be a starting point.
Giving details about Embedding Internet and digital tools into education, the report said once access to school connectivity is achieved, it must be embedded into the curriculum, and teachers must be trained to integrate technology into everyday learning.
In the area of Protecting Children Online, the report added that school connectivity would provide 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 further said.
It also recommends that public, private and NGO sector leaders around the world could make a dramatic impact towards bridging the digital divide by joining forces to make internet connectivity a global reality for school children of all ages.
Based on the report, Ericsson has appealed to industry players to key into the Giga initiative, which is a school connectivity initiative founded by UNICEF and the International Telecommunication Union, through actions such as: funding, data sharing, technological expertise and reimagining sustainable business models for connectivity.
Ericsson has committed its efforts through a three-year partnership with UNICEF to help map the current school connectivity gap across 35 countries.
The Ericsson-backed EIU report, titled 'Connecting Learners: Narrowing the Educational Divide', has reinforced the company's belief that the ambitious goal of Giga, to connect all schools and their surrounding communities by 2030 is achievable.
Vice President of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility at Ericsson, Heather Johnson, said: "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."
She added: "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 realize this important goal."
UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, Partnerships, Charlotte Petri-Gornitzka, said: "Together, we are mapping schools around the world to identify connectivity gaps in communities. It's key that we collaborate across sectors to connect schools and provide quality digital learning, so every child and young person can leapfrog to a brighter future."
The EIU report shows how school connectivity can lead to improved educational outcomes and enhanced career opportunities for children. resulting in higher economic activity and community growth. The report found out that these individual-level benefits for children have a snowball effect leading to higher incomes, better health, and improved overall wellbeing. The benefits can extend beyond children, supporting wider community development and economic growth.
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