By Serpil Timuray, Vodafone CEO Europe Cluster
As we mark the UNESCO International Day of Education, I reflect on the difficulties students, teachers and families have encountered over the past 12 months, and the urgency we need as a society to address some of the challenges that have become more apparent than ever.
At Vodafone, our technology plays a vital role in overcoming some of the barriers to learning. Now more than ever, our connectivity enables teachers and students – wherever they’re located – to access the tools, resources and support they need for a quality education.
Bridging the digital divide
Already 2 billion people use mobile internet to access educational information for themselves or their children, which shows the value of our networks to connect people to digital services.
However, as many as two-thirds of school-age children still have no internet access at home, and remote learning remains out of reach for at least 500 million students.
These inequalities have deepened even further during the pandemic, with lockdowns and school closures impacting 94% of students around the world.
Without connectivity, students cannot access online learning, teachers are unable to deliver lessons, and many are at risk of being left behind.
Across Vodafone, we’re offering a variety of services, including zero-rating educational platforms, providing extra learning resources, donating devices, and boosting digital skills to support our customers and communities.
For example, we’ve enabled more than 770,000 students and teachers across 917 schools in nine countries to access digital learning through Vodafone Business Venture’s Connected Education. This combines connectivity, devices, security, and classroom management tools. This enables teachers to use interactive tools and host lessons in or outside of the classroom.
In Spain and Portugal, Connected Education is delivering connectivity and mobile broadband, while in Romania we have provided over 100,000 tablets. In South Africa we are providing access to cost-effective data and educational apps and resources via our partnership with Microsoft.
In the UK, our schools.connected plan is also providing 350,000 students with free data SIMs and helping them access online educational resources from home.
Investing in skills for the future
While connectivity and devices enable access to education, it is crucial that people also have the necessary skills to use them.
That’s why Vodafone Foundation is investing €20 million to advance digital skills for 16 million people across 14 countries, including Albania, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey, and the UK. This investment will support individuals to develop the knowledge and skills to use digital technologies so they can remain active in an increasingly digital society.
This builds on Vodafone’s longstanding commitment to help young people access digital skills, learning and employment opportunities, which has already supported over 700,000 young people to date.
As part of Vodafone's Social Contract, we recognise that we have a fundamental role to play in creating an inclusive digital society. We are passionate about making technology, and the opportunities it brings, truly accessible to everyone, everywhere.
Now is the time to put education and lifelong learning under the spotlight to overcome the various barriers to accessing education.
But Vodafone cannot do this alone.
We need greater collaboration between governments, educational institutions and the private sector to fix the wider problems facing students and teachers, including access to reliable networks, affordable devices and basic digital skills.
In Europe, we now have an opportunity to accelerate this even further through the EU and national recovery funds, by ensuring we invest in digital as we build back better. This will be crucial to drive our economic and social recovery and most of all, support all Europeans to access digital skills, learning and employment opportunities.
Only by working together can we truly create education systems that are equal and accessible for all.
Find out more about our work to keep everyone.connected here.
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