Member States and companies step up to spread broadband to schools – UN

26 May 2010 – Member States and private sector giants, including Microsoft, have pledged to help expand broadband’s reach to schools worldwide, with the United Nations International Telecommunications Union (ITU) urging others to join the cause.

The agency’s “Connect a School, Connect a Community” initiative, launched last year, aims to connect all schools to broadband Internet services so that schools can also serve as community centres for information and communication technology (ICT).

“Our objective is not only to expand access to broadband connectivity, but more importantly we need to launch innovative applications in areas such as health, education and commerce to help stimulate progress towards achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals [MDGs],” Hamadoun Touré, ITU Secretary-General, told a ministerial-level gathering in Hyderabad, India, yesterday.

Agreed on by world leaders, the MDGs are eight anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline.

Following an open call for partners for the ITU scheme, France announced it would provide €500,000 in matching funds to connect schools in at least three sub-Saharan African countries, while Portugal said that it will supply laptops and support for 10 countries.

For their part, Microsoft and Intel have said that they will provide laptops, computer laboratory solutions and software licenses.

At yesterday’s meeting, Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, spotlighted the important role played by public-private collaboration, calling for additional partners to “dedicate resources to this important challenge.”

Yesterday’s meeting was part of the ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference, held every four years.

A new report by the agency yesterday found that health institutions and schools in developing countries continue to have limited access to information and communications technology, calling for greater efforts to improve access to high-speed Internet services.

The World Telecommunication/ICT Development report 2010 found that access to ICT within education institutions provides students with new resources and teaching tools, allowing them to acquire the skills required for the information society, the report says. Information technology also improved education administrative processes and supported teacher-training.

“Outside school hours, connected schools can provide access to ICTs for the community, including marginalized groups,” the report notes.

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