China-based technology giant, Huawei said it plans to improve equitable and quality education by addressing the barriers to internet access in Africa as many school students on the continent move to online learning platforms. Schools have remained closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging different countries in Africa and many parts of the world.
During a webinar conference, Ken Hu, deputy chairman, Huawei, joined by leaders and experts from UNESCO, GSMA, and government officials from Senegal, academics, acknowledged that 50 percent of the world’s population still does not have internet access and many people lack the skills needed to use digital devices. This is responsible for the growing digital divide in education.
Hu says this digital divide can be bridged with Huawei’s connectivity plans. These plans include providing access to high-quality educational resources such as digital curriculum and e-learning applications, and teacher and student training by connecting school to the internet with partners. These come in forms of programs like the DigiSchool project.
The DigiSchool project was launched in South Africa with collaboration from Rain and Click Foundation. The goal of the project is to provide internet access to 100 urban and rural primary schools by 2021, in addition to the 12 schools already connected through 5G technology.
“Through digital education, we not only address the literacy crisis in the country but also provide young children with the digital skills needed for future success,” Nicola Harris, CEO, Click Foundation said.
Huawei is also looking to provide digital skills training for vulnerable groups in remote areas, especially female students, through projects such as DigiTruck in a program called ‘Skills on Wheels’. In 2019, over 1,500 students and teachers in Kenya were recipients of the DigiTruck. The success of the program in Kenya has encouraged Huawei to plan a further rollout in France, the Philippines, and other countries by 2022.
“These all solar-powered, mobile classrooms with wireless broadband access can reach even the most remote communities,” said Olivier Vanden Eynde, CEO of Close the Gap, a key partner of DigiTruck.
Hu also said Huawei is stepping up its efforts through TECH4ALL initiative in support of UNESCO’s Global Education Coalition, set up to tackle the global challenges impacting education due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In recent times, the tech manufacturer teamed up with UNESCO, and the Ministry of National Education of Senegal to support the West African country to carry out distance learning during the outbreak of the virus. Local teachers were provided with connectivity, digital devices, and skills training which will benefit more than 100,000 students.
“This crisis has changed the face and future of education. It has demonstrated how fast change can happen through partnership, when expertise and resources are matched up with local needs to ensure learning continuity, especially for the most marginalised students,” Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education said.
Huawei ICT Academy launched in April 2020 has also impacted communities in Africa. The program brings together global university partners and offers college cooperation incentive funds, which can be used for online courses and examinations, online experiments, etc., and provides more than 130 Massively Open Online Courses (MOOC) resources, covering cutting-edge technology fields such as artificial intelligence, big data, 5G, and the Internet of things (IoT).