According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), nearly 3.6 billion people remain unconnected from the internet, and by extension, unconnected to digital products and services that could dramatically improve their lives. Approximately 29 per cent of 18–24-year-olds – around 360 million people globally – do not have digital access, thereby lacking an avenue to the same information, opportunity and choice as their better-connected peers.
This level of digital exclusion is a significant barrier to social and economic development. Not only for young people deprived of 21st century skills, education and opportunities, but also for their communities and entire societies. In support of GenU’s Promising Ideas agenda on Digital Connectivity, GIGA aims to connect every school to the internet — creating an entry point to opportunity and choice for every young person currently disconnected.
“GIGA will provide the critical foundation for connectivity, skills, and information that bridges the digital divide for the 3.6 billion people, who do not have meaningful access to the internet,” said Ms. Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau at the International Telecommunication Union and a Generation Unlimited Champion.
GIGA has four main pillars:
· Map Every School’s Connectivity: In partnership with governments, GIGA will map connectivity demands using schools as a base point. This will involve mapping the physical location of all schools and their current connectivity usage in real time to estimate connectivity needs. The numbers will be aggregated across multiple countries to create a demand pool. Already more than 800,000 schools across 15 countries have been mapped and are viewable online.
· Finance the Common Bid: GIGA will aggregate connectivity demand. Regional business cases and bids will be created that demand bid-applicants to have a plan to connect all schools. Bids will be presented to the private sector and financing partners to create layered funding packages and incentives for providers. The project is looking to collaborate with donors, financing institutions and investors to raise the public and private financing needed to connect every school in the world.
· Connect Every School: In partnership with industry, GIGA will determine possible solutions based on connectivity requirements. It will help oversee the implementation of solutions with a focus on good governance and security. Solutions will also be developed to monitor connectivity usage in real time.
· Empower Young People with Skills: Building on the investments and support provided by the Digital Public Goods Alliance and UNICEF’s Venture Fund in open source solutions, GIGA will be growing the number and scaling of proven digital public goods that are able to improve skilling and able to close connectivity gaps and support countries to scale solutions. GIGA is looking to raise and increase investment available for emerging technology solutions and to partner with other investment funds.