1.3 billion children do not have access to the internet at home and only around half of the world’s schools are online. This digital exclusion particularly affects the world’s most vulnerable children, especially girls and children with disabilities, causing learners to miss out on online resources, the option to learn remotely, and the chance to develop digital skills. Ultimately, the lack of connectivity means these children have fewer opportunities to fulfill their potential and are being left behind.
UNICEF and ITU have therefore joined forces to create Giga, an initiative to connect every school in the world to the internet and to help address the urgent and important issue of digital inequality.
An essential part of Giga is mapping school internet access. One of the challenges in bringing connectivity and internet to schools is first understanding and identifying how many schools there are across the globe and then detecting if they have internet access. Giga maps schools and their connectivity status on Project Connect, an open-source platform that provides a real-time display of access and needs for funders, governments, and internet service providers. Once schools are mapped, Giga creates models to help governments create connectivity plans and provides them with innovative solutions in financing and contracting for school connectivity.
Dell’s Partnership with UNICEF to Support Giga
In October 2021, Dell first partnered with UNICEF USA to accelerate Giga’s work to map, finance, and connect schools around the world. Since then, our partnership with Dell has expanded to include financial support, technology investment, and technical support for Giga.
“Our goal is to democratize technology at a global scale, starting with enabling connectivity and access,” said Cassandra Garber, VP of Environmental, Social and Governance at Dell Technologies. “Our partnership with UNICEF USA and Giga is a step toward our digital inclusion mission to getting technology, skills, and networks in the hands of those who need it most, creating a path towards digital equity for future generations.”
High-Performance Technology in Action
Dell contributes valuable technical assistance, including access to High-Performance Computing (HPC) for use by Giga’s data science team. Recently, this resource has enabled Giga to map previously unknown school locations by using machine learning algorithms trained to identify schools on high-resolution satellite imagery. Giga’s mapping efforts have substantially accelerated as a result of this high-speed data processing capability.
As an example, the application of Dell’s HPC technology for mapping schools in Sudan reduced the time needed to download, process, and apply models on satellite imagery from an expected completion time of a year down to only six weeks – nearly a 9x reduction. The trained model has been applied to 1 million satellite image tiles and used to predict over 20,000 school locations, with over 13,000 schools previously unmapped.
“Without knowing where schools are, we cannot begin to solve for connectivity. Mapping each school is the very first challenge, and the Giga team is working to solve it by using an incredible combination of innovative methods to map schools around the world,” said Sophia Farrar, Partnership Lead for Giga. “Support from Dell empowers us with world-class technology and accelerates our ability to continue this important work.”
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.
UNICEF USA advances the global mission of UNICEF by rallying the American public to support the world’s most vulnerable children. Together, we are working toward a world that upholds the rights of all children and helps every child thrive. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.
UNICEF does not endorse any company, brand, product or service.
Giga is a joint initiative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) that aims to connect every school in the world to the Internet by 2030. Working with over 14 corporate and non-profit partners, Giga maps schools’ Internet access in real time, creates models for innovative financing, and supports governments contracting for connectivity. It is part of ITU's Partner2 Connect Coalition, UNICEF’s Reimagine Education initiative, and the UN Secretary General's Common Agenda and Roadmap for Digital Cooperation.
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