Ericsson and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have announced a global partnership to help map internet connectivity in schools in 35 countries by the end of 2023.

The project which has been termed School Connectivity Mapping is to provide every child with access to digital learning opportunities to bridge the digital gap.

The joint effort is part of the Giga initiative, launched in 2019 and led by UNICEF and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Giga aims to connect every school to the internet, with Ericsson being the first private sector partner to make a commitment to the initiative and does so as a Global UNICEF Partner for School Connectivity Mapping.

According to the ITU, 360 million young people currently do not have access to the internet.

This results in exclusion, fewer resources to learn, and limited opportunities for the most vulnerable children and youth to fulfill their potential.

Improved connectivity will increase access to information, opportunity, and choice, enabling generations of school children to take part in shaping their own futures.

“The deepening digital divide is one of the many inequalities that the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored,” said Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Deputy Executive Director, Partnerships, UNICEF.

“School closures, coupled with limited or non-existent opportunities for remote learning, have upended children’s education worldwide. Our partnership with Ericsson will bring us closer to giving every child and young person access to digital learning opportunities.”

On her part, Ericsson’s Vice President of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility, Heather Johnson said her organisation is willing to provide support for data engineering and data science capacity to accelerate school connectivity mapping.

She also indicated that Ericsson will assist with the collection, validation, analysis, monitoring and visual representation of real-time school connectivity data.

Noting that, the data generated through the mapping will enable governments and the private sector to design and deploy digital solutions that enable learning for children and young people.

“Ericsson is uniquely positioned to be a key partner in helping address this important issue due to our technology expertise, global scale, decades of experience in public/private partnerships, and proven results connecting students and educators.

“Working together with partners, like UNICEF and the ITU, amplifies the potential impact of school connectivity and is a concrete first step in helping bridge the digital divide globally,” she said.

The Director of ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, Doreen Bogdan-Martin said ITU brings a history of technology policy advocacy and regulatory expertise to the vital mission of connecting every school in the world.

“We are thrilled that Ericsson will join Giga and help build the mapping tools necessary to make connecting every school a reality.”

The UNICEF-Ericsson partnership also contributes to the Generation Unlimited Global Breakthrough on Digital Connectivity that aims to give young people digital skills so they can fully and meaningfully participate in the digital economy.

Generation Unlimited is a global multi-sector partnership to meet the urgent need for expanded education, training and employment opportunities for young people.

Additionally, the partnership supports UNICEF’s recent COVID-19 Agenda for Action in which the organization called for global action to keep children learning, thereby requiring the prioritization of internet connectivity in rural and remote areas.