UN Backs Broadband Schools To Bridge Digital Divide

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Connecting individual homes is too costly for some developing countries but schools can act as a broadband hub for an entire community, according to the UN

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon believes schools with broadband access can help connect remote and marginalised communities in the developing world

Speaking at the first day of the UN International Telecommunications (ITU) Union Telecom World 2009 conference in Geneva this week, Ban ki-moon said that providing broadband access and IT equipment to deserving individuals is too expensive for many developing countries but connecting schools offered a way to bring internet and computer access to an entire community.

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“Connected schools can become connected community ICT centres. They can provide a vital link to marginalized and vulnerable groups. They can become an information lifeline for women, indigenous people, persons with disabilities and those living in rural, remote and underserved areas,” said Ban Ki-moon. “I urge world leaders to support this effort and take the needed steps to meet the agreed targets of connecting all schools by 2015.”

The UN said that it will work with a range of partners to champio its Connect a School, Connect a Community.

“Designed not only for students but also for the communities in which they live, smart policies and innovative public-private partnerships promoting school-based community ICT centres represent an attractive, affordable and scalable step forward in addressing the digital divide, ” said ITU secretary-general Dr Hamadoun Touré.

Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT), Sami Al Basheer said schools have always been the natural hub of a community. “Connected school can provide access for a whole community: for youth, for vulnerable and marginalized groups, indigenous people, persons with disabilities and people in underserved areas. I believe the Connect a School initiative will make a significant contribution to achieving our connectivity goals,” he said.

In August the NHS and UK Department For International Development, launched a scheme in Kenya designed to create thousands of internet-based learning centers across the country. The first pilot in the Pasha Centre scheme was opened in Kangundo, with five other centres planned to open in locations around the country in the near future, according to Kenya’s ICT Board which is managing the scheme.

In another project announced in August, the University of Bournemouth donated around 500 used PCs to a project in Zambia designed to create the largest rural mesh network in Africa. The machines were donated via UK IT charity Computer Aid which takes computers from British businesses, refurbishes them, and distributes them to schools and other deserving recipients in emerging economies.

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